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The Victoria Shopping Centre in Southend has not “made a single penny” for the council, it has been revealed, sparking calls for it to be sold.
At a full council meeting on Thursday, Southend City Council leader Tony Cox presented a stark picture for council finances as it faces a projected £14 million deficit.
As part of the debate, he claimed that the shopping centre, at the top of Southend High Street, hasn’t delivered a single penny for the council despite being purchased by the previous Labour-led administration in 2020 for £10million.
The shopping centre recently suffered the loss of Wilko. However Boom Battle Bar, a climbing centre and NHS facilities have been added.
Paul Collins, Lib Dem councillor for Eastwood Park suggested the council should sell the Victoria Centre if it was not profitable in order to help with the deficit.
Dan Nelson, Tory councillor responsible for economic growth and investment, ruled out a sale in the immediate future.
He said: “I think we need to have a plan for the Victoria. It’s always been my concern there has never really been a plan for it.
“It was bought because it was seen as a good investment. The council certainly has not seen the benefits of that investment. It, as a company, is profitable but I would actually like to see it stop being this sort of arms-length body which exists outside the council’s remit.”
Cllr Nelson said revenue from the Victoria Centre currently doesn’t go directly to the council.
He added: “I would like to see it become a proper council asset similar to our car parks, where actually car parking which has made revenue for the Victoria Centre, none of that comes to the council. It’s the only council-owned car park where that money does not come into the council.
“At the moment there is a load of money there that we can’t touch because it is going straight into the Victoria Shopping Centre’s pocket. There are a lot of changes required. In terms of selling it I don’t believe selling it at this time is going to relieve the financial burden on the council because the financial burden is a revenue burden and if we were to sell, it would only be capital that we ended up with.
“It’s a good place to put council offices or front line council services at least to try to open some space in the civic centre, maybe for housing. We need to look at the Victoria Centre becoming an income generator for the council and not just a business that sits there as an asset that it’s nice to have.”