A BUMPER £47m cash injection will be spent on a package of projects to improve roads, schools, car parks and Southend Pier as part of new council budget plans revealed today.

Projects could include new multi-storey car parks at Tylers Avenue, Southend and two other possible sites in Leigh, due to be unveiled in March.

The £47m investment aimed at rejuvenating the town includes spending £3.2m on road improvements and pavements.

About £1m would be used for resurfacing and repairing potholes, £650,000 for improving road junctions, £600,000 on zebra crossing improvements and £450,000 on enhancing the conditions of pavements around trees.

A further £5.3m will be spent on maintaining and refurbishing the town’s world-famous pier, part of an ongoing investment that needs to be committed to ensure the pier’s longterm survival .

This will be on top of the £16m already allocated to the pier last year to replace the trains and build a new restaurant and a visitors’ pavilion.

A one-hour town centre parking band reintroduced in autumn 2019 will also be maintained and all charges for council-owned car parks will be frozen for a second year.

Ron Woodley, council deputy leader, said the council would borrow about £45m, adding: “But we are borrowing now and investing in infrastructure and into the town.

“This is the cheapest time to do it because we don’t know what will happen in the future.”

He said the council would deliver on many of the projects that were allocated funding in previous years, including the Airport Business Park, a new care home in Prittlewell Chase and the Forum 2, a new teaching and arts building in the heart of Southend near the Forum library.

Mr Woodley, Independent councillor for Thorpe ward, said: “These projects will happen this year.

“We keep saying they will happen but this time they will happen.”

A total of £13m has been included for the Delaware and Priory residential care homes and the Victory Day Centre for the elderly.

About £18m will be spent on Forum 2 and money will also be spent to allow Chase High School to introduce a new class in 2020 and another the following year.

Mr Woodley said a particular focus would be resurfacing the East Beach car park in Shoebury where he hopes to see extra lighting and a new pathway to the station.

He said: “This work would mean people coming to visit Southend and Shoebury in particular can walk to East Beach on a lit path while for those who want to drive, they will have a suitable car park for them.”

Southend families in average Band D homes could pay extra £55 a year in council tax to help boost funding for social care.

Southend Council is considering a number of changes to council tax including an increase of 3.99 per cent.

Residents with properties left empty for five years may pay double and children who have left care would be exempt from paying council tax until the age of 21, or even 25.

The proposed increase means residents in average Band D homes will be asked to find £55 extra each year to help fund an extra £5.7million for adult and children’s social care.

The extra funding will include £2.4million for the cost of placing children in care and £400,000 that be used to attract 16 new foster carers. Out of the 3.99 per cent increase, two per cent will be ringfenced for social care.

Overall it will mean a Band A home will pay an extra £37 a year, Band B will pay £42, Band C will pay £48 and Band D - the average - will pay £55.

It represents a slight decrease on last year’s change which saw the council increase council tax by 4.5 per cent. Homeowners who leave properties empty for more than five years could also be charged double their usual council tax rate as part of a push to bring houses back into use.

The council is also looking to provide better financial assistance to children and young adults as they leave council care by excusing them from council tax until the age of 21 or in some “exceptional circumstances”, the age of 25.

It is hoped that this will help some of the most vulnerable people in the town from falling into debt Labour council leader Ian Gilbert said: “This budget ensures that the council can provide good quality services for those who most need them, in an era when demands on our services are everincreasing.

“In common with most councils, we have seen a huge increase in the costs associated with looked-after children, and continued pressure on our adult social care budget. “For the first time since 2011, the main grant the council receives will not be reduced and is expected to rise by £100,000 in line with the consumer price index of 2.1 per cent.

"However, since 2011, this grant has reduced by 93 per cent - from £64million to just over £6million - and there is no long-term certainty to central funding.

“Whilst one-off boosts and grants are welcomed, they do not help with long-term planning and that is why we have to propose raising council tax to ensure that we can keep providing children’s and adult services, not just for the next financial year, but for the next five years and beyond.”

The changes form part of the council’s draft budget for 2020/21 and will be discussed by the council’s ruling cabinet on January 16.

The council has proposed spending an extra £9.5million to buy private homes to get people off the housing waiting list and into properties. The money is on top of £5million being spent this year on 20 homes and a £14.5million housebuilding programme.

The council is also proposing to spend £57million on repairs to their current housing stock. The extra homes will help to alleviate the struggles of some of the 1,472 households currently stuck on the housing waiting list, which includes around 300 children.

Council leader Labour’s Ian Gilbert, who oversees housing, said he estimates it could lead to the purchase of up to 60 properties which will be in addition to 18 already bought and nine under offer.

He said: “Ensuring that we provide more council housing and getting people and families off of the housing list is a top priority of this administration.

“That is why we have been buying up private homes to add to our council housing stock. “I am pleased to put forward this proposed investment to allow our acquisitions programme to continue which will provide more homes for people on our housing register to move into.”

In addition to the housing acquisitions, the council is continuing to invest a total of £57million over the next five years on the construction of new build properties and the maintenance of existing ones. The maintenance work will include electrical rewiring, bathroom installations, new roofs, new kitchens, new windows and new boilers.

Of that money £800,000 will be spent on buying up the leases on properties within the Queensway tower blocks in preparation of a £500million regeneration project that could create up to 1,650 new homes.

The council already owns the freehold on this site but Mr Gilbert said a number of leases need to be purchased back due to the tenants having the right to buy