Southend Civic Centre could close on some days to cut costs

Southend’s Civic Centre could be closed on some days in order to save on soaring energy costs.

The council’s draft budget reveals proposals to limit opening times for the civic offices in Victoria Avenue saving the council, which has a projected £7.3million deficit, £50,000 a year.

The council has already shut down the top five storeys of the 16-storey building with a saving of £100,000 a year.

The Civic Centre has the capacity to accommodate 1,000 people, but current peak occupancy is up to 300 as staff continue to work from home following the Covid-19 lockdown.

A cost-cutting suggestion in the budget papers said: “Civic One currently operates on a full-service basis from Monday to Friday with out of hours access and provision running at weekends.

“The building could be used on a more limited footprint on Mondays and Fridays – less floors, no catering, reduced security – or closed completely on one or more days.”

Council bosses have insisted the initial focus is “limiting the footprint” rather than closures, but has not ruled out closing the Civic Centre on certain days if needed.

The council is also looking at relocating its staff into the Victoria Plaza shopping centre which it bought in 2020.

Last year the council set aside £250,000 to be used to explore how the council can use three floors of the south east corner of the Victoria Centre,

Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative Group, said: “What about members of the public who need to go in there for services. I am probably one of those who get the working from home argument more than others, but you still need a base. You still need to have access to a base.”

Paul Collins, councillor responsible for asset management and inward investment, said: “Rather than full closure, we are currently looking at using a more limited footprint on Mondays and Fridays using less floors, no catering and reduced security, so public and staff will still be able to access the building. Staff levels also tend to be lower on Mondays and Fridays and the site can operate on a more efficient basis on these days. This will not have any impact on the times and ways in which the council is contactable.

“However, we will continue to review the use and operation of the central council estate to ensure the estate is operated in the most effective and efficient way, particularly given increasing energy costs and the council’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter