Deputy leader says Southend Council ‘must continue work’

The deputy leader of Southend Council has said he is confident that crucial policy decisions will continue despite coronavirus forcing the cancellation of key meetings.

Councillor Ron Woodley (Ind) said work is underway to explore how meetings can be held virtually so councillors will not be required to be in direct contact with each other.

He further emphasised that some of the biggest council projects will not be held back by the coronavirus pandemic.

“What we will need to do is begin holding virtual meetings so we can carry on the business of the council which we must do as we still want to drive forward our policies and our vision for the future of this town,” said Mr Woodley.

“I am absolutely confident that we can continue, it may be in a different form, but it can and it should continue. So far, we’ve only had four positive cases in Southend so the numbers are low for a population of over 180,000.

“If people look after themselves and take precautions, we will get through this with the minimum impact.”

One of the biggest projects that is in the works at the council is the complete redevelopment of Queensway. The ambitious £500million plan aims to completely transform one of the most deprived areas in Southend, with the existing tower blocks made up of 441 homes being completely demolished and replaced 1,700 new properties.

Mr Woodley said the council will meet their target of having an initial planning application for the scheme ready by June.

He said: “I am absolutely confident the plans will be ready, we know what the targets are and we want the application going in in June. We will make sure that still happens.”#

As the coronavirus outbreak has continued to spread, the council has faced a range of significant changes to daily business including a 12-month delay to local elections.

On Tuesday the council announced all meetings in March would be cancelled.
Independent Councillor Trevor Harp, who oversees health, has also spoken of business continuing at the council, highlighting that the focus is on the most vulnerable.

“As we continue to deal with this global pandemic and its effects locally, it is right that we are focusing on the most vulnerable members of our community,” he said.

“Business continuity plans have been enacted across the council, and some venues have been closed. We are looking at how these staff can be redeployed and used to support the community and voluntary response that will be needed in the days, weeks and months ahead.

“We are also in daily contact with our care providers, Southend Care and our colleagues in the health sector to ensure that we work together to continue providing safe services to the people that need them.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter