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Leigh On Sea News. Falling Ceilings & Rising Costs - By Coun Tony Cox, leader of Southend City Council.

Leigh On Sea News. Falling Ceilings & Rising Costs – By Coun Tony Cox, leader of Southend City Council.

Falling Ceilings & Rising Costs - By Coun Tony Cox, leader of Southend City Council.

By Coun Tony Cox, leader of Southend City Council.

FALLING Ceilings & Rising Costs, yet the wheels keep turning.

Coun Tony Cox, leader of Southend-on-Sea City Council discusses RAAC, the council’s financial position and the Tour of Britain.

We have a lot to be incredibly proud of in Southend. Most recently we’ve hosted the sixth stage of the Tour of Britain – seeing international cyclists speeding along the seafront past our iconic landmarks was a sight to behold.

A lot of work went into making sure the event run smoothly and it paid off. It provided a welcome boost to our local economy, as did the recent Southend City Jam, which received rave reviews.

We now have the Halloween Parade and fireworks to look forward to.

But it’s not just events, we should also be proud of our community spirit and approach to problem solving.

As Kingsdown School was closed by the Department for Education just days before the start of the new academic year, the local community rallied and numerous offers of help came into the school. Neighbouring Eastwood Primary School offered two of their unused classrooms to help and early years settings kept reception class children on, in their pre-school lessons, until the issues could be resolved.

It was down to sheer hard work and commitment from all involved that the school was able to open just five working days later than planned. An incredible testament to the school staff, council staff and community who made it happen.

It is that community spirit, which I hope is going to rally and pull us through the continued financial challenge we face as a council.

I spoke in my leader’s statement at the recent full council meeting on September 7 about the budget challenges facing the council, which is experiencing unprecedented pressures.

A report into the finances for ‘period four’, which looks at our spending from April to July 2023, reveals the council is currently forecast to overspend by £14 million by the end of March 2024 if we don’t step in and act.

This unprecedented pressure is coming from high inflation, an increase in demand and cost for services, and an increased complexity of needs among those residents and families that need our support and services.

The lion’s share of our budget goes to those who need it most, residents who we have a statutory obligation to support, and it is the reason why children’s social care is forecast to be overspent by £7million and adult’s social services by £6million.

This is a financial position that we, as a cabinet, have inherited.

Now we are challenged with setting it right and this includes lobbying Government for a fairer deal and more funding.

It highlights clearly in the report that nationally many councils are struggling with their financial position this year and the issue of a S114 notice (where councils are

effectively saying they’re bankrupt) which was once unheard of, is looking like a real possibility for several other councils.

Whilst we aren’t in that position in Southend, we need to take the warning signs seriously and do everything we possibly can to adjust our overall finances to consider the significant additional pressures, so that we live within our means.

We have some tough decisions ahead of us, but I truly believe if the council pulls together, members of all political persuasion and officers, for the greater good of the city, then we can get through this and ride the storm to calmer financial seas.

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