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MP calls on council to challenge census
SOUTHEND’S “shocking” census results must be challenged in the courts to avoid losing up to £130million over the next decade, according to one of the town’s MPs.
James Duddridge , the Tory MP for Rochford and Southend East, has “in the strongest possible terms” called for Southend Council to pursue a judicial review of the population count taken last year. Mr Duddridge claimed the official figure of 173,600 people was 15,000 to 20,000 short of the real total. That could cost the town an estimated £13million in Government funding every year until 2021. A similar miscount in 2001 is thought to have led to an £80million shortfall in funding over the last decade.
Mr Duddridge said: “That simply cannot be allowed to happen again. This is a shocking result. We must act decisively and swiftly to correct it.”
The MP added there were bound to be difficulties with the counting process.
But he branded the Office for National Statistics, which conducted the census, “incompetent” for failing to corroborate its results with other available figures.
He pointed out the number of homes paying council tax in Southend last year – 76,485 – was 1,785 higher than the census’s household count.
A change in the system means the only way for council chiefs to alter the census result will be through the courts.
Nigel Holdcroft , the Tory council leader, agreed with Mr Duddridge’s sentiments, but pointed out a legal challenge could be costly.
He said: “I agree with James’s view that there has clearly been an under-count once again, as is supported by the council tax records.
“However, we are still investigating the likely extent of that and the financial effect on the authority before a final decision is taken, as to whether there are grounds for a judicial review.”