As Councillors, our MP, senior officers and contractors gathered with the Mayor and Sir Bob Kerslake last Friday evening for the switching on of the new illuminated masts one could not help but feel we had our Golden Mile back.
What had promised to be a rainy event was transformed as the western sky was lit with a truly magnificent rose gold sunset which seemed to glow over the proceedings, the Amusement Arcades and businesses of Marine Parade were resplendent with their Vegas style lights and as the City Beach Project comes to a close it really does seem to have achieved its aim in removing the tarnish and giving us a Golden Mile.
The Mayor touched the screen on the remote and after a slight hesitation the Illumination jumped to life, colours changed, patterns evolved and as it grew darker they became ever more eye catching.
Mariner’s Square with the many water jets is virtually complete, the toilets and foreshore building are well in hand, the trees and planting look really good and are nearly complete and the Illumination masts, well you will either love them or hate them, but I hope you will agree that the Golden Mile is once again Golden!
Has a certain ring to it! More importantly the SKIPP use of this phrase emphasises how little they understand of aspirations. Southend gets circa 6m day visitors a year that puts us into the higher league tables, but others that attract high numbers actually get more back per visitor than Southend. Brighton and Bournemouth for example achieve a far far higher spend per visitor than Southend. So I ask- is there anything wrong in Southend aspiring to get a bit closer to their income from tourists? Is there anything wrong inSouthend Residents aspiring to wear a Prada dress?
Surely in a town with over 7 miles of beaches we can afford to have some variation of style- something for everyone, the ‘quaint’ fishing village of Old Leigh, relaxing beaches and walks along the prom or through the gardens in Westcliff, the noisier more contemporary feel of the new central area of Marine Parade, the slightly more commercial seaside bits of Southchurch with give way to the wide greens and beaches of Thorpe Bay. Scattered along the coast are watersport facilities, seaside bars and cafes, paddling pools etc. Then on around the bend into Shoebury where the now emerging Gunners Park is the splendid back drop and through to East Beach with its far wilder, more natural aspects.
Yes, there is a place, indeed there are many places, for candy floss and toffee apples, bucket and spades and sand castle building, yes there is space for amusement arcades and pubs, there is space aplenty for fish and chip shops and icecream stalls, indeed there is space within the current built areas for virtually everything any one could want. So why not aspire to improve the public realm, to assist business by smartening up a bit, to seek to attract a wider range of visitors and to provide them with reasons to spend money here.- Improved hotels- we’ve got some and more are likely to come, seaside cafes and bars and maybe a couple of new or refurbished ones somewhere, a magnificent water fountain feature to keep the kids happy when the tide is out (and probably when its in too) new illuminated lighted masts with state of the art digital lighting effects, trees to wander through and areas to sit in, Adventure Island- it does a sterling job, a new Pier Pavillion( its coming this year)
Artists impression of the new Pier Pavillion
an arts programme to attract and entertain visitors is on the way, the Cliffs Pavillion too offers a really full range of entertainment. Oh and lets not forget the proposed new Museum which will shore up the cliffs, provide a major new carpark and offer a truly inspiring museum complete with all the educational facilities one would need, a restaurant with a view to die for and some much needed indoor entertainment to draw in tourists from across the country and to keep them happy when the sun is shy ! Extending our offer, creating opportunity, investing in our assest working to promote our Town and improve its economics- If all of this is PRADA on SEA then I say bring it on!
Most of us do not wish to spend our last years or months in residential care and with some forethought and planning, for many this need no longer be where we end up. The 10 most common reasons for admittance to residential care are known and whilst some are probably beyond our individual control some are not, for example, dental care, or lack of it, is a top 10 reason for going into residential care as are problems with feet and incontinence these 3 are generally treatable if dealt with promptly. When an elderly person enters hospital they can become disorientated and ‘institutionalised’ very quickly, in this state they are then asked to consider their options for the future, many are confused and later state they felt pressurised by family or hospital staff to enter residential care. Yet there are other options. A far wider range of support exists than ever before for older people and it is best to consider the options well before they may be needed. Southend Council can advise all residents on these options including those that will not be eligible for state funding. They include adapting one’s own home and how that might be funded, buying in care for yourself, either through the Council’s providers or privately, accepting a personalised care budget and spending it as you or your family see fit to meet your needs best, telecare, extra care housing or through an intensive 6 week re-ablement programme aimed to get you back where you were before you had the problem for example before a stroke or a broken limb. My portfolio includes health and whilst we are working alongside the PCT and Director of Public Health to close the health inequalities gap we are now also looking at the 10 reasons why people get admitted to residential care and what we can do to help residents remain independent and healthier for longer. Some of the obvious ones are better information for those in middle age, better NHS dentist coverage, foot clinics, better information around incontinence and urinary tract infections and closer working with GP’s to promote healthier lifestyles etc. We also need to consider access to GP’s, many elderly are admitted to hospital on a Friday afternoon- why? Could it be because the local surgery will not be open over the weekend and GP cover will have to be provided via a Locum? The new Health and Wellbeing Board that should come about as a result of the NHS white paper will be a useful tool for bringing all the necessary parties around one table to move this agenda on and improve the outlook for each of us as we get older. Only last month we invited the local GP’s into the council to discuss how we could move forward (this was the first time that anyone can remember that the Council has directly discussed issues with GP’s) and several suggestions are now being put into practice.. I want to cut the jargon out of our strategies, deal with the issues that we can influence and use my offices to promote those that require the hospital or GP’s to address. I want simple targets that all can understand, that will improve life for the elderly and most of all I want residents to be involved in their own care and decisions.
Much to the relief of local traders and those residents that need to drive and go about their business at the weekend Southend on Sea has avoided the snow to date. However, bad weather is forecast his coming week and the elderly will need to be extra careful. The elderly are far more vulnerable to falling and slipping and the consequent, breaks, sprains and bruising etc often has far greater consequences for them. Once hospitalised it is far more difficult for the elderly to return to their homes and their independence.
So please let’s pull together if we get snow or ice, let’s look out for elderly neighbours and help them to stay safe indoors rather than venturing to the shops. If you have concerns about a neighbour and cannot contact them please contact the Council directly on 215000.
Further advice around gritting and any disruption caused by adverse weather can be found here
Following the announcement that housing benefit is to be capped London tenants are moving-
Inside Housing- ‘Councils in London are arranging to move local housing allowance claimants into accommodation as far away as Hastings, following cuts to housing benefit confirmed in the comprehensive spending review.
London Councils revealed this week at a meeting of the work and pensions select committee that local authorities in central London have been block-booking private rented accommodation and bed and breakfast rooms in towns across the south of England.’ read more
This news, though not unexpected, is extremely worrying, Southend simply could not cope if this occurs here, we need to put our own residents first and are considering our allocations policy to strengthen this in respect of Southend council stock but private landlords do not have to abide by such policies. Once a resident has become ‘settled’ they become the responsibilty of Southend Council, need school places, health services and can go on our housing list!
Having read the comment below this Echo article I think I should clarify a few things. The dissemination of information to residents is not the ‘Nanny State’ and yes, we are well aware that many of those that most need assistance do not feel that they can ask for it and that many are owner occupiers, hence the article which is telling residents where to go for help and advice. The grants available are open to all and where a resident does not qualify for totally free insulation etc they can still benefit greatly from paying a small contribution.
Grants cover roof insulation, cavity wall insulation, boiler upgrades, double glazing etc and for those on certain benefits or over 70 can be free of charge. As the commenter says some have fought for this country and paid their taxes all their lives, so now is the opportunity to really help some of our more elderly residents and to direct them, or to phone on their behalf if you are worried, to the Council for advice.
Unfortunately the conditions as to who may receive some state benefits is open to exploitation and yes some scroungers will no doubt claim but that is no reason to stop others applying.
Could this be a blueprint for a savings in South Essex? 3 London Councils are coming together to deliver significant savings for their residents and taxpayers. Link to article. Each of the 3 London Borough Council’s will keep its Council Leader and Councillors but services like waste collection, care and education etc. will be commissioned and provided across the larger area as one. Would this produce similar savings in South Essex? How big could South Essex become? Castle Point, Rochford and Southend or with Basildon and/or Thurrock as well? All these Councils have worked together around Thames Gateway South Essex relatively well.
How could the savings be made? Well there could be a far smaller administrative core of officers, perhaps just one set of a Chief of Executive and senior Directors, larger contracts should result in more competitive tenders and economies of scale would be found in most sectors. Would there be disadvantages? Quite possibly but unless we seriously consider the options it is difficult to know if the disadvantages outweigh the advantages or vice versa. South Essex is already tentatively discussing working together where there are advantages to be found around affordable housing, social care and health, perhaps the time has come to start to consider moving it all a step further!
In the past when such ideas have ideas have been floated Southend has been portrayed as ‘being after’ Rochford’s green fields and further discussions have failed, but land is not what this is about and that particular bug bear can be dealt with and safeguarded against anyway. Let’s move on and have a seroius, grown up discusion to see if there are any advantages for residents. Any comments?
With financial meltdown looming and their membership nose diving it would ordinarily seem uncharitable to intrude on the private grief of the labour leadership election with criticism of their local activists. However, something – perhaps desperation, perhaps inexperience – is affecting local labour party judgement. This is evident in their choice of candidates – dropping the somewhat harder hitting Councillor George in favour of Judith McMahon – the same McMahon who was rightly booted out of Kursaal at the last election after an ineffectual stint on council and poorly organised campaign.
In St Luke’s meanwhile they’ve put in Kursaal resident Anne Jones whose interest and knowledge of the ward is so great that her ‘Labour Rose’ news leaflet failed to mention a single local issue.
Now obviously I’ve no knowledge of the politics or policies that lead to these people being chosen and normally I’d never even comment on this sort of issue. However, only a few months on from the last election it’s clear that it’s smears, not substance, that Labour intend to campaign on. Take for example the ‘Labour Rose’ news leaflet alluded to above and the way in which Southend Labour solicits donations by claiming “not to be funded by property developers or tax exiles”. Can there be any purpose to this other than to imply that local conservatives are funded by such people? Is such a shallow and transparent technique really how they hope to raise money from hard-pressed taxpayers in St Luke’s? They know full well that locally conservatives are funded very transparently, and receive no direct funding from Ashcroft etc. Nationally, while I dare say no party is perfect, Labour is certainly in no position to be throwing stones.
So why are they so happy to try and lower the public’s opinion of politicians? Either they are extremely amateur and content to treat the public as fools, or they are so dismayed by their prospects they have given up trying to be a real political party and are just hoping to blacken the reputation of others out of spite. Perhaps this is why so many of their best candidates have seemingly disappeared from the political scene.
The real pity of this is, however, that to be an effectual administration you need an effectual opposition and Labour are the only party that can fulfil this role. The LibDems blow with the local wind and the ragbag collection of Independents cannot form a joint policy let alone offer joined up opposition. So we need a responsible Labour party that holds us to account based upon policy not whim and political expediency.
The Pier and Foreshore Working Party today agreed to move forward with plans for the Pier Head.
Based around the award winning scheme the work will be phased and funded by Southend Council. The Conservative lead Council has put £3m, into the capital budget to move the Pier forward. Following the fire the decking has been repaired, the station rebuilt, fire precautions installed and much more as well. Currently the windbreaks are being extended and ongoing repairs are funded.
The new scheme will see the structure strengthened and extended for a new pavillion that will be multi use from Conferences to cultural performances from weddings to childrens parties from classrooms to artist studios officers will now look at how best to use the space which will also include a restuarant and or a cafe. The award winning schemedesigners have already, as part of the bid submission, done a lot of work and their proposals are feasible to be built, hence the decision to work with the winners.
Chairman John Lamb said it was really important to move the Pier on hence the £3m budget which the Conservative Cabinet had provided as an initial sum.
Cllr Anna Waite said we want something for everyone at the end of the Pier, this will provide a great covered space that can be used for all sorts of things, once this is underway we can look to the next phase so that little by little over the next few years we can provide the town with a Pier to be proud of.
Following years of complaints about rowdy behaviour and kids in cars etc a Conservative led scheme will see this busy visitor location become a safer, greener place.
Vehicles will now be prevented from the main open grassed areas leaving them car free and safe for children, a new cycling route is going to replace cars on the small lane as the humps are removed and picnic tables and BBQ stations will be in place within the month.
The new car park area has been extensively landscaped, new solar powered ticketing machines have been installed and some 30 new trees have planted.
East Beach is totally different from the resst of the Southend shoreline, its a bit on the ‘wild’ side and enjoys more open vistas across the widening estuary, Oyster catchers can be seen in the flood pools and off shore, seagulls are nearly always in residence.
A local kite surf oganisation operates from the far corner of East Beach and you can watch the kites as they traverse the water, often falling in, but, as they get up speed, it is quite a spectacle.