Updated: Jul 21, 2022
According to Cllr Collins in the recent Policy and Resources Meeting, the £2m earmarked for the Victoria Shopping Centre repairs to the roof and other areas of disrepair, were already factored into the price when it was first acquired.
Being that it was a Councillor who asked the question it seems likely that not many people knew this information.
This is not a criticism as such, more an observation about communication.
Had we all known there was another £2m to come would we all have been so comfortable with the acquisition? Difficult to know. In fact it’s difficult to know what is going on with Victoria Shopping Centre since it became Council owned.
When 70% of people turned down the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights in the recent local elections, I sense that more needs to be done on this front to engage, and engagement starts with transparency of information.
Granted, Southend citizens could register to receive the regular council emails, which are actually very good.
Furthermore, they could watch the Council meetings on the excellent Southend Council Live Stream.
They could also write to their Councillor to find out what’s going on.
They could attend one of their surgeries to see them face-to-face.
But…very few people do all that and so it is a stand-off between the apathy of the Southend public and the ‘if you want it, it’s there if you try hard enough’ set-up from the Council.
Again, not a criticism of either, just an observation. And one that ought to have a solution.
Because although there are scrutiny boards that ask the very question as asked regarding Victoria, as Southend citizens we are all involved in the process too.
We don’t have to be elected to scrutinise a policy or decision.
Democracy has always been in our hands and now more than ever given the corruption that is rife, we need to ask questions.
I am not saying for a second that the dealings regarding the Victoria Shopping Centre were in any way corrupt.
I am saying that it would have been good to know that the price was actually 20% higher than was publicised.
Was it good value for the tax payer?
That depends on the expectation in the first place, and whether that £12m could have been spent elsewhere.
As it is I will be asking questions about how the units in the centre have been filled and what is being done to attract local people to start businesses in a low-cost environment where their shop can stand a chance of making it.
After all, more successful businesses equals more jobs and more tax generated to hopefully be spent on the public services we all want.
I will speculate and say that transparency and openness are what the Council wants to achieve. Clearly, it is an upward struggle. Yet with the vast array of digital platforms never has there been a better opportunity to reach the previously unreachable.