Southend: Tax Increase And Job Cuts In Budget

A council tax increase, job cuts and the loss of the Southend Airshow as an annual event have all been announced by Southend Borough Council.

It has released its budget for 2013/2014 and says it has to make savings of more than £10 million, plus more savings the year after. It means spending on services will be affected with more than £6.5 million of savings identified over five departments. 

Adult and Community Services (£1.82m) and Children and Learning (£1.78m) are the areas most hit. The need to save money also sees Council Tax rise by 1.75 or £19.76 a year for people in Band D properties. 

The Council also says a further £3.8 million has been saved in efficiencies through "cross-cutting spending themes" including transport, highwaysw, IT systems and social care. 

Jobs at the council are also set to go, with 80 full-time posts identified as at risk although 41 of them are currently vacant. Some of the borough's best love attractions have also fallen victim to the drive to save money. 

The Air Show will no longer run as an annual event, although not scrapped completely, to save £130,000. Meanwhile, the Pier will no longer be open on Mondays or Tuesdays during the off-season (between November 1 and April 1) - a move that will save £50,000. 

The Council insists it is not all bad news though, pledging money to a number of capital projects across the borough. 

These include £4.5 million on sea defence works, £2.13 of improvements to the Kent Elms, Bell Corner and Tesco roundabout junctions and on the A127, the expansion of child care places for two-year-olds and a four-year programme of repairs to paths, roads and tracks within Southend's parks. 

Council Leader Nigel Holdcroft said: "We are now into the third year of the austerity measures and these financial decisions are becoming harder and harder to make. 

"Over the past two years we have delivered a raft of economies and made targeted efficiency savings to ensure we can balance our books. 

"We have also done a lot of work in re-negotiating terms with our contractors and suppliers which have enabled us to avoid having to physically cut services. 

"But the economic situation has worsened across Europe and Government is telling us that it is going to take the country longer than had previously been thought to put things back on an even keel. 

"We no longer have any leeway and we have to make real cuts to services in order to balance our books - and that involves making some very hard choices. 

"Some of the savings we are proposing won?t be popular with residents but I would ask them to bear in mind that this crisis was not of our making. 

"This year we will not be taking the Government's freeze grant because it has reduced the level of support it is offering. 

"We have decided instead to increase Council Tax by 1.75 per cent which we believe is reasonable and will enable us to protect at least some services and jobs from cuts. 

"On a more positive note the Government's allocation to Southend for Public Health, which comes under local authority control in April, was higher than had previously been indicated. 

"But these difficult financial conditions are not going to improve any time soon and we will have further difficult decisions to make in years to come. 

"We are determined not to make decisions on a short-term year-by-year basis and have already begun looking at how we can make major savings in service delivery going forward. 

"We have to take a new approach to how we provide libraries, museums, leisure facilities, old people's homes, children's centres and waste services. 

"But I genuinely believe that the continuing hard work and co-operation of our staff and partners will enable the Council to meet the ever increasing challenges we are facing head-on. 

"Southend continues to be a fantastic place to live, work, study and relax and we will continue to strive as hard as we can to improve the lives of all our residents come what may."