Southend shopping centre must stop ‘haemorrhaging money’ says cash-strapped council

Southend City Council must stop “haemorrhaging money” on the Victoria Shopping Centre after it was revealed almost £500,000 will be used to revamp shops to attract new businesses.

Earlier this month, the council was criticised after it was claimed £450,000 was spent to entice adventure bar Boom Battle Bar to move into the centre, a tactic which looks set to continue.

Cabinet papers from the council– which owns the centre – reveal refurbishment work costing £495,000 could be set aside from the capital budget to be spent on shop units “dependent on lease agreements being reached”.

Daniel Nelson, Tory councillor for economic growth and investment, said: “Whilst we still own the Victoria there is a requirement for us to manage it. At the moment the cabinet are looking at all options in order to stop haemorrhaging money.”

Last month Tony Cox,Tory leader of the council, revealed the authority “wasn’t making a penny” from the Victoria Shopping Centre, which the council bought in 2020, as profits from rents and parking in the centre’s multi-storey car park were not going directly to the council but back into the centre.

Cllr Nelson said that situation had now been rectified but the council is still out of pocket.

He said: “We’ve had a deep dive into the finances. When you take into account the investment and the borrowing costs, the council is actually losing money on the Victoria Shopping Centre.

“We’ve got £3million of borrowing costs already attributed to the centre. When you take that into account, and the interest on that, we are losing money.

“With the current market, if we were to sell it today the value of the centre would likely to be less than what we bought it for so we can’t even flog it without making a loss.”

The council recently earmarked £2.8million out of its capital budget to repair the roof and to upgrade some units.

Cllr Nelson added: “The figures on the Victoria Centre are completely alarming and as an administration we are looking at how we can stop the haemorrhage and stop the potential financial risk that it’s putting the council under. We are not making a profit from it.

“We need to have a period of not spending fortunes on the Victoria Shopping Centre. We need to maintain it and actually bring profit in. We need to stop spending money on new tenants for a long-term gain which I don’t believe exists.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter