The Victoria Shopping Centre in Southend has failed to generate any profit for the council, leading to calls for its sale. However, some council members believe that transforming the center into a revenue-generating asset for the council is a better solution.
The Victoria Shopping Centre, located at the top of Southend High Street, was purchased by the previous Labour-led administration in 2020 for £10 million. Despite this significant investment, the center has not contributed any revenue to the council. Southend Council leader Tony Cox highlighted this issue during a recent council meeting, where he presented a bleak financial outlook for the council, projecting a £14 million deficit.
The recent departure of Wilko, a major tenant in the shopping center, has further exacerbated the financial challenges. However, there have been some positive additions to the center, including the Boom Battle Bar, a climbing center, and NHS facilities. Despite these additions, the center has still failed to generate any financial returns for the council.
Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Collins has suggested that the council should consider selling the Victoria Centre to help alleviate the deficit. However, Conservative councillor Dan Nelson, responsible for economic growth and investment, has ruled out a sale in the immediate future. Instead, he believes that the council needs to develop a comprehensive plan for the center and transform it into a revenue-generating asset for the council.
Nelson argues that the center was initially purchased as a good investment, but the council has not reaped any benefits from it. He suggests that the center should no longer function as an arms-length body outside the council’s remit but should become a proper council asset, similar to their car parks. Currently, the revenue generated from car parking at the center does not go directly to the council, unlike other council-owned car parks.
Nelson believes that by making the Victoria Centre a council asset, the revenue generated from it could help alleviate the financial burden faced by the council. He suggests that the center could be transformed into council offices or frontline council services, potentially creating space in the civic center for housing.
In conclusion, the Victoria Shopping Centre in Southend has failed to generate any profit for the council, leading to calls for its sale. However, some council members believe that transforming the center into a revenue-generating asset for the council is a better solution. By developing a comprehensive plan and making necessary changes, the council hopes to turn the center into an income generator rather than just a business that sits as an asset.