Cost of Southend’s City of Culture bid could prove too much to take

The cost-of-living crisis could force Southend’s City of Culture bid to be put on the back burner as councillors worry it could cost £2million to put together.

Southend Council is set to launch public consultation on what could be a costly bid to win City of Culture accolade and will insist two thirds of residents and businesses are in favour.

A successful bid could earn the city hundreds of millions of pounds in revenue and investment, but councillors at a cabinet meeting yesterday warned it could result in cuts to services and huge costs.

Carole Mulroney, councillor responsible for environment, culture and tourism, said: “Just submitting a bid is a costly process. Whether you win or lose the same level of preparation and work is required if you are going to make a valid bid.

“The winning bid for Bradford cost £1.4million.

“With the cost of living crisis, material costs increasing, fuel costs rising, rising fees for consultancies it’s not fanciful to think that three years hence we are talking in the region of £2million.”

Cllr Mulroney added: “Serious thought needs to be given as to the financial position of the council and the effects of submitting a bid which would clearly have an effect on council programmes and services

“None of these are inconsequential matters and I am not willing to commit to proceeding with the bid without a clear knowledge of these and a view from the people of Southend.

“I would suggest that we need to indicate we will not take less than a two thirds response in favour.

Martin Terry, councillor for public protection was also concerned about the impact on services.

He said: “Over a five year period Hull City Council had to invest £5million per annum. Now with inflation that would be £6million. Therefore is that the right thing for us to do given the financial place we are in?

“We need to be clear what the benefits are if we are going to spend £6million a year on this over five years. That’s money we won’t be spending elsewhere so that’s cuts in other services.

“I’m not sure that’s the right thing for us to do.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter