New Southend budget proposals set to be approved next week

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Unnecessary double yellow lines on roads off Southend High Street are to be removed and replaced with disabled parking bays, it has been announced.

The council’s deputy leader, Councillor Ron Woodley, has announced that disabled visitors to the town centre will soon be able to park closer to shops.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the senior councillor explained that the extra bays will be part of the council’s town-wide parking strategy that is still being put together.

He said: “As part of our review of parking in the town centre we have looked at bringing part of parking strategy forward and we are looking to remove double yellow lines where they are no longer needed and, subject to viability, will install disabled parking bays so people can park closer to shops in town centre.

“This will mean disabled drivers will no longer need to drive around the town centre trying to find a suitable spot. All of these new bays will be very close to the shops.”
Mr Woodley made the announcement as the cabinet also approved the proposed budget for 2020.

The budget, which outlines the council’s spending plans from April, was approved after being scrutinised in a series of committees. So far, no issues have been raised.

The plans will bring a 3.99 per cent increase in council tax – an extra £55 a year – primarily to help fund a £5.7million increase in spending for adult and children’s social care.

Also in the budget is a promise to spend £9.5million to buy up private homes and transform them into council homes, part of a wider strategy to get people off the housing waiting list and into properties.

The funding will be spent over a five-year period and council leader Ian Gilbert has estimated it could result in an extra 60 homes.

The town’s infrastructure will get a funding boost with £3.2million set to be spent on improvements to roads and pavements, including £1million on resurfacing and repairing potholes.

A further £5.3million will be spent on maintaining and refurbishing the pier, £2.2million on installing extra electric charge points and £6.8million on improving flood defences.

Council leader, Cllr Ian Gilbert said: “The aim of this budget is to safeguard council services not just now but in the long term.”

Cllr Anne Jones, who oversees children and learning, added: “Capital investment and revenue investment into social care Is very much welcomed. We have more children coming into social care, and we need to prevent that, so this reversal of cuts is welcomed.”

Cllr Carole Mulroney who oversees the environment also praised Mr Woodley’s announcement of additional parking bays calling it a “really good way” to further assist disabled residents.

Approval from the cabinet means the budget will progress to a full council meeting next week where further amendments may be made.

The Conservative Group has already begun publicising a raft of changes including the idea of building an amphitheatre at the top of the High Street and compulsory purchase orders for empty properties.

The Tories are also keen to push through two-hour free parking on roads off the High Street, a policy which is likely to clash with Mr Woodley’s disabled bays.

Questions have also been raised about how the Tories would fund the ideas and what cuts would need to be made elsewhere to make them possible.

Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter

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