Imagine you could get on a boat in London and “sail” down the river to a good night on the end of a pier then get a boat to take you home. That would be cool, right?

Victorians did it.

And at our own Southend Pier. A steamboat would deliver them to a ballroom at the end of the pier where they would dance the night away then steam back to London with sore feet and maybe a sore head too.

Queen of the South - Southend PierImage Credit: Kingswear Castle

“My earliest paddle steamer memory is of sailing from Southend Pier
when I was about 5 or 6 years old aboard the Queen of the Southend.”

That didn’t grow organically. It grew as part of a plan to attract tourist pounds to Southend. The pier was extended especially to achieve that. They had a plan!

Southend Pier Vintage Photo

Back in those days a Council would liaise with the local businesses to create wealth for the town.

The Pier has been through the wars a bit since and those halcyon days are long gone. Two world wars, fires, boats crashing into it etc have all taken their toll.

But the principle still applies. The town needs jobs, it needs more money coming into it than going out of it and it needs its local businesses to thrive. Local businesses employ local people and so everyone’s a winner. Right?

Well no, not if you can just cynically sit back and rely on Council Tax and Parking charges and fines to bring in easy money. Not if people mainly commute into London and bring money into the town that way. Why under those circumstances would you invest in the Pier? In the local businesses? In local jobs for local people?

Well, here’s a thought. People save up, get loans out, travel half-way across the world to Disney World and Disneyland because someone with imagination saw sense in investing.

Here’s another. By generating local projects it creates business for local companies to provide and maintain the project. Local businesses employ local people. People that might currently claim benefits might instead be paid wages, pay their bills, be less of a revenue drain, contribute to a pension, buy properties, pay Council Tax… buy a car, pay parking charges for it…. All things are connected.

As well as that is the overwhelming positive feeling they would get from contributing to something truly iconic. Truly positive. A feeling we’d all share with pride in our town.

Of course ballrooms are a thing of the past, but theatre isn’t, concerts aren’t, theme parks aren’t and on and on… there’s still plenty to get the tourists to Southend. And we should make more and more…

The City provides a £50 billion injection into the GDP of the UK.

Many commuters live in the soup of that bonanza and bring good money back to the Borough. However there is a real danger of that going from London. Under the Northern powerhouse of the current Government, from Frankfurt’s continuous efforts to attract that business to Germany. Shouldn’t we have other sources of income to protect us from completely collapse should those jobs in the City disappear? A responsible administration would “pluralise” its incomes to spread the risk. To protect its citizens and the town as a whole. Those that survive when others go to the wall do so because they “imagine”.

So let’s imagine we return the Pier to past glories. Let’s imagine we bring boat-loads of tourists from London, from Kent, from France and Belgium. Don’t forget Southend is the nearest coastal town to London. Let’s imagine we show them such a good time that they return. That they spread the word. That people come from further afield. That Southend-on-Sea becomes a positive revenue seaside town with contracts for local businesses, with jobs for local people, with a better infrastructure, with investment potential for wider business. That’s the way business used to be done and the principles all still apply.

But that would ruin our town, wouldn’t it?

All those extra people. All those extra businesses. All those cheap and nasty retail outlets with their cheap goods at inflated prices. All those fast-food outlets, haven’t we got enough of those already?

It could.

If you didn’t have an overall plan. A plan to make the town better.

To restrict the exploitation of tourists and locals alike. To control the businesses that can take advantage of the scheme. To favour those that use local labour. To favour those that use local businesses themselves. To draw up the plan of the town WE want and let businesses exist within it – not us put up with what we get left with after businesses have had their say. To re-invest income from tourism in the beautification of the town – which makes it even more attractive… and so on…

Let’s imagine that we have a bond. Not just an emotional bond that we all share in our success, but a financial bond that we invest a small amount in, as much or as little as we can spare, and we see returns on, that we see it growing to provide more for the town and more for our individual incomes.

The council couldn’t then use lack of funds as a reason to avoid action and we as people would gain leverage in the decisions of our Council.

Remember they work for us, not us for them.

Imagine that. Or don’t – and the opportunity is lost.

So… are you in…?