SOUTHEND-ON-SEA BOROUGH COUNCIL
Meeting of Business Ratepayers Consultative Forum
Date: Thursday, 1st February, 2007
Place: Civic Suite, Civic Centre, Southend-on-Sea
Present: Councillor Foster (Chairman),
Councillors Holdcroft, Mrs. Carr, Mrs. Holland, Lamb, Kelly, I. Robertson, D.
In Attendance: R. Tinlin, R. Szadziewski and F. Abbott
Representing Federation of Small Business – Mr. K. Wickham
Representing Leigh-on-Sea Town Council – Cllrs B. Abbot and Mrs. Rowswell and
Mr. G. Fulford
Representing Residents Associations:
- Mr. R. Stuck, Montague Court, Hamlet Court Road
- Mr. E. Cornish & Mr. Perkins, West Leigh
- Mrs. B. Smith & Mr. B. Payne, Westborough Residents
Representing Southend Business & Tourism Partnership – Mr. R. Fisher
Start/End Time: 20.30/22.05
**** Part I
1 Apologies and substitutions.
Apologies for absence were received from Mr. L. Lesser (Business & Tourism
Partnership) and from Mr. R. Woodley (BERA).
Formal introductions were made by those present.
2 Declarations of interest.
There were no declarations of interest made
3 Minutes of the Meeting held on Thursday, 2nd February, 2006
The minutes from the meeting held on 2nd February 2006 were noted.
4 2007/08 Council Tax - Consideration of Budget Report and Questions
The representatives from outside organisations had received a copy of the financial
report considered at the Cabinet meeting held on 7th January 2007 and considered at
the Scrutiny Committees. They additionally received a copy of the draft fees and
charges for services in 2007/08 included in the budget proposals for 2007/08, and which
will be considered by Cabinet on 6th February 2007.
Representatives attending the meeting had submitted questions prior to the meeting. A
copy of the responses to the questions is attached as an Annex.
The following questions & comments were raised at the meeting:
Small Business Rate Relief – Mr. Wickham asked for information on the percentage
uptake. The Interim Borough Treasurer undertook to provide comparative figures for
05/06 and 06/07 and forward them to Mr. Wickham.
Procurement – The Chief Executive & Town Clerk clarified the positive steps being
taken by the Council with regard to procurement across the organisation. The changes will give the opportunity to make our money go further and also give businesses
opportunities as well.
Business Waste – Mr. Wickham said that he still had concerns about the WEE
Regulations, which came out today, and that they have not been fully thought through. He feared that there would be a repeat of the ‘refrigerator mountain’ and wondered what
steps the Council was envisaging it would take. The Interim Borough Treasurer said that
the refrigerator issue had been resolved in the end nationally, and we are not able to solve such issues alone.
Cory contract – Mr. Payne asked questions about the Cory contract and in particular
whether wheeled bins had been considered/discussed. He explained that other urban
areas, such as Newham, West Ham seemed to be able to cope and cited Rochford as
The Leader explained that the Council was mindful of this and was looking at all means
of collecting waste effectively. We also need to be aware of the environmental
issues/urban area. The Chief Executive clarified that the Council is considering a variety
of options for waste collection. The waste collection contract will be a 5 year contract
and it may be beneficial to leave contracting options open. The Council has financial
challenges though and different forms of waste collection have implications & different
financial issues involved.
The Leader also explained other waste challenges – in terms of landfill. He thanked Mr. Payne for raising these issues with the Council.
Mr. Stuck mentioned issues in Westcliff and in particular spillage onto roads. Both he
and Mr. Payne praised the ‘road sweepers’ for their excellent work.
Effect of the Census – in response to a question, the Chief Executive & Town Clerk
confirmed that the Council had tried to influence the government and ONS about the
2001 census figures. The Council and the PCT believes that the actual population is
178,000 – whereas ONS stated the figure was 160,000 and falling. This has affected the
Council enormously – about ?6 – ?7m in grant every year.
The Leader mentioned that the Council had met the Registrar General – but had not
been able to persuade them to change the census figure. In effect the 2001 census said
that Southend’s population was the same in 2001 as it had been in 1991! The mid year estimates also showed an upward trend. The critical thing now is to be ready for the next
census in 2011. The Chief Executive & Town Clerk mentioned that there are currently
more deaths than births registered in Southend and that the town relies on people moving in to keep the population healthy and dynamic.
Car parking – Mr. Wickham referred to the issue of affordable parking in the town and
suggested closer liaison with businesses/retailers. The Leader understood the point
being made and that there needs to be bigger focus on medium term planning. The
Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) will allow for better financial planning, which in
turn will enable the Council to be better prepared for the financial challenges it faces.
He confirmed that in the past the Council had been reacting to financial pressures. The
CSR will allow better preparation.
The Interim Borough Treasurer explained that the results of the CSR will be known in
late Autumn and after then the Council will know is financial resources over 3 years.
However, future financial settlements are likely to be tight, with an emphasis on health
and education. He agreed that the Council should talk to the business community earlier
and talk longer term as well.
Mr. Fisher referred to other car parks other than the town centre car parks within the
town – the seafront, Leigh, the RBS development, Fossetts Farm etc – which need to be taken into account of without restricting investment into the town centre itself.
The Chief Executive & Town Clerk confirmed that there are interlinked challenges and
that the Council is investing in the infrastructure to support public transport.
Mr. Payne asked whether a Park & Ride scheme was being considered. The Leader
mentioned the geographical nature of the town needed to be considered and there may
be opportunities for ‘Park & Train’. There are suites of measures to be looked at but
none are deliverable in the next financial year!
Referring to car park charges, Mr. Fisher mentioned that this needed to be more
user-friendly to allow for example, machines being able to accept notes. He also queried
the proposed fees and charges for car parking and queried whether it was worthwhile
increasing a charge by only 5p. The Chief Executive & Town Clerk thanked Mr. Fisher
for his comments and advised that the Cabinet is committed to trialing ‘pay on exit’ on
one of the car parks.
Mr. Fulford mentioned that the governments parking standards for developments also
makes the situation worse.
Phase 3 of A13 – Cllr Abbot queried the success of Phases 1 and 2 as it is a great waste
to use the A13 as a ‘car park’. He believed that for Phase 3, this issue needed to be
sorted. He suggested that the A13 could become something like the London ‘Red
The Leader however stated that there is another side to the issue as the A13 has
numerous number of shops and businesses along it. There is an issue of balance
between upgrading the A13 and control operations. The issue of car traders though is
one which has come to the fore again. The Chief Executive & Town Clerk advised that
the Council is currently looking at ways to upgrade how this is dealt with. Councillor
Kelly also mentioned that it is extremely difficult to put in a scheme which would
differentiate between a shopper and a business/shop owner!
Mr. Cornish mentioned that he was surprised to hear that the Council is still waiting for
funding for Phase 3. WS Atkins had undertaken a survey in 2003 and he had raised
queries at the partnership meeting in March 2006. At that meeting, Mr. Cornish said that
he was advised that ?1m had been ring fenced for this project (and ?.5m for the Travel
Centre). He was also told that ‘work would start in October’.
The Chief Executive & Town Clerk advised that Mr. Cornish’s view of events was
correct. The Council is awaiting confirmation from the government that ?1m has been
allocated. The Leader said that this reflects the funding issues for transport nationally.
The government is not in a position to provide funding – Priory Crescent is a case in point. A further difficulty is that the government has also changed it approach to how to
fund local transport plans.
Councillor Garston reiterated that the Council is doing all it can to get a favourable
decision on this. Cllr Garston is to attend a meeting next week with civil servants at the
regional office to try to resolve the issue. Councillor Lamb stressed that the schemes is
importance to the whole town.
Dwellings and jobs targets 2001 – 2021 – Mr. Fulford had asked a question on the
dwellings and jobs target for the region and for Southend. The Leader explained that
EERA had been advised that the targets should be viewed as ‘minimum’. Locally, our
housing completions are ahead of a rolling target and this has been achieved without
any kind of intervention. Cllr Garston stressed that Southend needs the infrastructure to
go with developments. The Leader confirmed that the town needs employment led
growth. He also clarified that the Ranges development was not on the horizon and was
a long term aspiration.
Youth facilities – Mr. Cornish had asked a question about the youth facility in Leigh at the
community centre and whether the Council would consider opening discussions with
local schools to provide their premises/playing fields for out of hours use.
The Leader mentioned the government initiative for developing play facilities and
enhancement in the town and the Council is mindful of the need to improve facilities for
youth. Tapping into finance for this is the issue.
The Chief Executive & Town Clerk mentioned that schools within the borough are
opening for longer e.g. Temple Sutton school which is an extended school and has a
community library on site as well. However as some schools are Foundation schools it is not always easy to influence what they do. The real challenges are – access to necessary finance; working out what young people actually want; finding adults to help
Councillor Mrs. Carr advised that the Leigh facility has been replicated across the town and mentioned the improvements to the Focus centre and Shoebury facility
refurbishment, funded by the Connexions Service.
Mr. Cornish suggested that the facilities could be publicised more.
Cllr Abbot mentioned that the Town Council, in partnership, was hopeful to provide a
high quality skateboard park at Leigh Marshes. A bid for lottery funding has been
submitted and the Council is awaiting confirmation of the award. He also mentioned that
the Town Council has given an undertaking to clean and maintain the facility.
Mr. Wickham helpfully suggested that for a facility to work, the youth needed ‘ownership’
of what is provided and need to engage youth in any decision made. Cllr Abbot
confirmed that this had been taken on board in the plans for the facility.
Councillor Mrs. Holland also referred to a further application made to Cory Trust for a
skateboard facility in Eastwood Park ward.
The Chairman closed the meeting and thanked all the representatives for attending the useful meeting.