AT least 16,000 jobs are at risk in Basildon due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the council leader has revealed.

Gavin Callaghan, Labour leader of Basildon Council said his authority may also need to step up and create a plan to save the Towngate Theatre and the arts and culture scene within the town.

Speaking as a guest on a podcast run by the think tank, Local Government Information Unit, he insisted he wants to save as many jobs as possible.

He said: “There are reports on my desk that suggested that up to 16,000 jobs in the borough are vulnerable because of coronavirus, that would be hugely devastating for Basildon.

“We want to be making sure we are doing everything we can and lobbying the Government to sign post people to jobs so we don’t lose those jobs.

“We are embarking on and I am still perusing, a £1billion regeneration of Basildon town centre that puts the arts and culture at the heart of what we are doing.”

Turning his attention to the Towngate Theatre, he insisted it is vital it bounces back.

He added: “We have a huge theatre in Basildon and I want it to survive and I want it to come back and I want those artists, sound engineers, make up artists and everyone who relies on the arts in Basildon to have a future.

“And so we need a specific package for the recovery of the arts and if the Government won’t do it the council will have to look at what we can do.

“Everything is on the table is what I’m telling my officers, there’s nothing coronavirus can’t touch in terms of putting Basildon back together again and if we take that approach and we are brave enough as officers and members to not just return to the status quo it could be brave new world for Basildon.”

An election was due to be held in May and Mr Callaghan admitted Covid-19 has provided a fresh, and unexpected, challenge for the council team.

He said he believes the pandemic has been an opportunity to see councils work at their best.

He also highly praised the work of the council officers and management team.

He said: “I’m incredibly proud of my officers at and the leadership by our chief executive and deputy chief executive.

“We’ve been connected to our communities in a way I don’t think any other branch of Government is able to and that has meant that even before the lockdown was announced we were delivering medicines and food parcels.”