Political Viewpoint by Southend Council’s Liberal Democrat Group Leader and Councillor for Eastwood Park Ward, Coun Paul Collins.
TO introduce myself, I am the newly elected Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group of Councillors on Southend City Council.
I first wish to put on record my thanks to the previous leader, Leigh Councillor, Coun Carole Mulroney, who led our Group splendidly and I have a big job on my hands to follow her.
Following the nationwide local elections, I am pleased to report that Liberal Democrats have a stronger voice in local government by gaining over 400 councillors, bringing our total to just under 3,000 councillors on principal authorities.
We have 12 new majority Liberal Democrat councils elected and kept control of 17 authorities. In total 75 Councils in England and Wales have a Liberal Democrat Leader or Deputy Leader.
We also share the leadership in other cross-party joint administrations. This includes the recent good elections results in our neighbouring authority, Rochford District Council, with the Liberal Democrats gaining seats in Rayleigh and they have joined a coalition of other parties to form a new administration in place of the Conservatives.
Turning to Southend, I am proud to be re-elected as a Liberal Democrat Councillor in Eastwood, although we are part of Leigh, we still feel we are a ‘village’, and it is an honour to be allowed to continue to work for my fellow residents in our part of our City.
However, it is a shame that public transport from Eastwood / Belfairs to Leigh is so poor, and I still remain committed to bringing better connections across our part of the City. This would help employment, our community and reconnect families, who struggle to keep in touch.
There are a number of issues that families are facing in 2023, and I regard my role as a civic leader to try and promote all parts of Southend and work to bring opportunities and support to all of our residents.
In the last year I was proud to lead the opening of the Launchpad. This is a place where new businesses may start and collaborate, within the Council’s owned Airport Business Park. The Council has insisted on the best environmentally friendly building, ensuring it meets to top rated BREEAM requirements.
I was pleased to help to lead a change to the City’s waste disposal contract earlier this year – this is different to the waste collection contract – where we are now sending our non-recyclable waste to Energy for Waste at two sites in the region.
This waste is incinerated at these sites, cleanly and safely, to create electricity by way of turbines. The residue from this process is then collected to be used in building materials.
This change gives us two great advantages, one being that it is no longer going into Landfill, the second being that it is saving the City’s budget £2m over the next 5 years.
All the financial pressures that we feel at home, are also felt by the City Council. The Council and Councillors need to be more honest with our fellow residents and businesses and must be clear about the pressures that we are under and how we are going to cope with them.
I called on many people up to the May elections, and we were often asked, what do I pay my Council Tax for?
Well, the Council has a statutory duty to look after vulnerable adults and looked after children in our care and this takes close to 66 pence of every £1 collected in Council Tax. Added to this, since 2010, the start of ‘austerity’, local authorities only now receive close to 15% from Government today, compared to the grants received then.
The City Council is starting a transformation project, to bring the future budgets in line with all these pressures, and undoubtedly communities will be asked to step forward to help each other, more than they do already.
As a Liberal Democrat, I will be working and supporting our communities, as this is what we do and have done so for decades, and I offer my hand to anyone who wants to join us to help others.
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