Southend Council leaders criticised for sending “mixed messages” during pandemic

“Mixed messaging” from council bosses has been slammed by the opposition who fear it is adding to confusion around Southend seafront.

Dan Nelson, Tory councillor for Southchurch, is calling for advice around the seafront to be clearer after the council released figures highlighting Southend Pier’s popularity.

The council had highlighted how during parts of last year, the iconic pier was more popular than in 2019.

But Mr Nelson believes this is at odds with the council’s “stay home” messaging.

Council leader, Ian Gilbert, insisted messaging is clear and that the figures related to last year when different restrictions were in place.

Cllr Nelson said: “In the lead up to championing the pier the council was telling people to stay away from Southend.

“The council needs to have a view one way or the other, you cannot market Southend as a great tourist destination and then say stay away from Southend.

“Mixed messaging coming from the council is part of the coronavirus problem. Local people should have the right to exercise along the seafront but if the council think people shouldn’t go down the seafront then that is the message, they should be pushing on everything.

“They cannot confuse the matter and add a whole new story about how wonderful Southend is. It’s a mixed message and is going to be causing problems.”

Cllr Gilbert said: “Our current message regarding visiting the seafront and other open spaces is clear. “We are still in national lockdown and people should be staying home and only leaving home for a permitted reason. One of those reasons is exercise, but the council is urging visitors to not travel long distances to visit areas such as the seafront.

“We are also reminding local residents that they should not be travelling long distances for their exercise and we are asking local residents to please stay local and enjoy the areas close to you for exercise.”

Angela Sharda

Local Democracy Reporter