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WESTMINSTER Report by Southend West MP Anna Firth

WESTMINSTER Report by Southend West MP Anna Firth

WESTMINSTER Report by Southend West MP Anna Firth

WESTMINSTER Report by Southend West MP Anna Firth

It is hard to believe that it was only a year ago that we welcomed King Charles III and the Queen Consort to Southend.

During a special ceremony, King Charles presented the letters patent issued by Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and Southend became a city.  An exciting journey began for our iconic community.

I believe that becoming a city, the legacy of my wonderful predecessor, Sir David Amess, is a transformative experience of limitless opportunity for Southend – a chance to boost our economy, bring in investment, bolster our public infrastructure and build a better future for our whole community.

Following tireless lobbying for over two decades, granting city status was a fitting tribute to Sir David’s heartfelt devotion to our area, but also the perfect recognition of the contribution our city has made, both to the region, and to the country.

The important question is, how have we done so far? Powered by talented volunteers who formed the Town to City partnership and supported by councillors as well as Southend City and Leigh Town councils, I would argue extremely well!

A spectacular city concert last February kicked off our ‘Southend City Week,’ followed by LuminoCity when massive light installations from around the world transformed Southend’s high street and world-famous pier into a shining beacon of creativity. City week culminated in a moving celebration of hope and light, bringing together faith groups from across Southend.

Since then, we’ve also had the Queen’s Baton Relay, the Halloween Parade, two new electric pier trains, a new city wheel, Southend Pride 2022, Leigh Folk Festival and more.

But it is all the hidden heroes and heroines who step up every year in so many ways to keep our city going and to provide better opportunities for everyone who inspire me the most.

On city anniversary day, I was privileged and honoured to attend Southend Cities ‘Unsung Heroes and Heroines Jubilee Awards’ and celebrate some of the many people who truly make our city great.

From inspirational charity leaders helping to keep young hearts healthy to teachers providing outstanding opportunities and so many others helping those in need, these are the heroes and heroines powering out city forward.

I was particularly proud when we welcomed our new Ukrainian neighbours to the city, many of whom are still in our community and making a positive contribution in so many ways. It was truly humbling to meet them again at the recent one-year Mayor’s event, and to pay tribute to their courage and resilience in the face of unimaginable brutality.

New events, festivals, shops, and businesses are blossoming across the city, with civic pride and optimism running like a golden thread through its core. However, there is still lots to do.

Regeneration through culture must be our mission to build the sustainable and inclusive future that will benefit us all. This sector is thriving locally, so we must capitalise upon it and claim the coveted title of City of Culture.  If we were to win, we could unlock millions of pounds of investment as has happened in Coventry, who won in 2021.

One of my core aims is to make our great, new city safer.  Knives are still far too prevalent on our streets and it is completely unacceptable that dangerous ‘zombie knives/machetes’ can be bought online by 17-year olds. Consequently, I am working with the Home Secretary, the Essex Crime Commissioner, the Policing Minister and Southend Police to get these awful weapons off of our streets for good.

Our healthcare system also needs attention. I am pleased to have secured over £10 million for Southend Hospital during my first year, including £8 million for a new, reconfigured A & E. However, we must now focus on improving primary care and mental health services.

To this end, I will be hosting a landmark ‘Health Summit’ in the coming months with NHS Chief Executives from across the local area to discuss service provision.

More money is on its way for local schools such as Blenheim Primary School, and contactless ticketing and accessibility lifts at Chalkwell are scheduled for the end of 2024.  Finally, homegrown businesses like Tapp’d are storming the market.

We are on an amazing journey, but it’s vital that we keep the momentum up if we are to achieve our true potential and become a true city of culture, of opportunity, of community and, above all, kindness. Here’s to the second year of being a city!


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