Pandemic forces council to revise ambitions for Southend’s future

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced Southend Council to make changes to its long-term ambitions so it can focus on recovery.

The council launched Southend 2050 two years ago as a roadmap for where the authority wants to be in 30 years’ time and the ambitions are weaved into almost every project undertaken since its launch.

However, the pandemic, which the council calls “the biggest challenge to human health and wellbeing since the Second World War”, has forced it to change up its priorities.

This includes six new aims centred on recovery which will need to be factored into all future projects.

They include rebuilding the economy, making the borough carbon neutral, improving transport, helping the recovery of communities, delivering regeneration projects and assessing how projects will help the council recover.

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the council’s chief executive cautioned that further changes are likely to be needed as the authority will face more financial difficulties in the future.

She said: “The cabinet has had earlier reports on the financial situation and while we are stable at the moment, there are financial challenges ahead and that is something we will need to return to.”

A previous report on the financial impact of Covid-19 showed that the overall estimated cost could be in the region of £15m to £20m for 2020-21. This is primarily due to the cost of emergency funding for things such as food distribution and social care.

Council leader Ian Gilbert added: “Members will be aware that as a cabinet we have set up six recovery streams which are our priorities as we move forward from the lockdown situation and deal with the challenges and in some cases opportunities we are presented with.

“We are living through very uncertain times and it is highly likely that this is just the first stage of reviewing those priorities.

“Undoubtedly as things become clearer things may change again but we are all aware of the huge scale of the challenges after having responded to the immediate pressures based on us by Covid-19, we are mindful of the economic challenges in particular.”

The 2050 ambitions were put together following a consultation with more than 35,000 people across the town.

Among the ambitions laid out for the next five years was an extension of Crossrail to Southend, a new outer relief road to Shoebury to ease congestion and a fourth Thames Crossing east of the current bridge and tunnels.

Other priorities, such as those added this week, are themes that are considered before any major decision is made.

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]