By Coun Tony Cox, leader of Southend City Council.
COUN Cox discusses the difficult financial decisions, which lay ahead and the importance of Remembrance weekend.
A detailed report was discussed at a cabinet meeting about the council’s financial position and as well as looking at cost savings for the 2023/24 budget, to drive down the council’s forecast overspend, it will look at proposals to help ensure we deliver a balanced budget in 2024/25 and beyond.
We need to be honest about the financial position we’re in and we need to be transparent about the difficult decisions we’re facing.
As leader, no one ever wants to be in the unenviable position where they’re having to look at reducing services – but that’s where we are, to protect the council’s future financial position.
Some good news is that we have already made strides to significantly reduce the £14million predicted overspend for 2023/24 and this will have a positive impact on future years too.
The updated position on the forecast overspend will be reported at the November 20 cabinet meeting, along with our budget gap over the long-term.
Whilst we don’t normally announce budget proposals and savings for the new financial year until January, we need to do it differently this time, so the right consultations and conversations can take place, before being formally approved by cabinet and Full Council in early 2024.
The old way of doing things is no good for the situation we are in, and we need strong leadership and action now.
Taking some earlier decisions will mean we can implement changes from 1 April 2024 to ensure the full year effect of resultant savings.
I have briefed the other party leaders and invited my political colleagues across all parties to contribute any cost-saving ideas they may have. This is a situation we are all in it together and it needs a joined-up approach within the council chamber to tackle the financial challenge head-on.
While we might not agree on everything, there needs to be a level of compromise and the earlier everything is laid out on the table and we know what options and opportunities we have, the better we can solve the problem.
I did say when I accepted the post as leader of the council, that I was willing to make the tough decisions. That is what I am doing now. And I strongly believe that a united front and a sensible approach to the services we offer, will avoid worse financial challenges further down the road.
Of course, part of this perfect storm regarding finance is the rise in the cost of living, creating extra pressures on services. There are many families in Southend who despite working hard and doing everything they can to cut costs, are finding themselves struggling to get by.
But you can make a small difference this upcoming festive season. This week saw the launch of the tenth annual Toy Drive. So while you are out and about doing your Christmas shopping, pop an extra little gift into the basket for the Toy Drive. We are looking for anything new, for girls or boys, from babies up to the age of 17.
You can buy directly at Argosy Toys and Toys ‘n’ Tuck, online at www.argosytoys.co.uk and select Toy Drive from the delivery options or give your donation to the Civic Centre or The Forum. Thank you in advance for your kind donation.
With Armistice Day on Saturday November 11 and our annual Remembrance Sunday service November 12.
The two events – the two-minute silence on Saturday and the parade and service on Sunday – would simply not be possible without the help of a number of community partners, veterans, invited guests and third sector organisations, so thank you.
Both events are emotional as we remember those who gave their lives in service for their country.
And I feel I should remind everyone that battles and conflicts are not always the sort fought with armies and weapons; some battles are simply fought with willpower and words.
I am sure that every single one of us is fighting some sort of personal battle too or at least know someone who is, so be kind to each other.
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