SOUTHEND Pier saw a dramatic drop in visitor numbers last year as 40,000 fewer people visited the 1.3mile long attraction.

A financial report to the council’s new Labour, Lib Dem and Independent cabinet has revealed despite the drop in numbers, an extra £190,000 in admission income was generated thanks to a price hike.

Last year a 25p increase in entrance fees was introduced, taking the total to £2.50.

According to the report, ahead of a meeting on Monday, numbers fell from 412,300 in 2022/23 to 375,000 in 2023/24.

Thanks to the pier admission income and other cost cutting exercises, the pier and foreshore time was £300,000 better off than predicted.

The council said it also spent £50,000 less on seasonal staffing costs with another £60,000 on “reduced costs and improved sales income”.

A capital investment of £1.6 million was made in the pier in 2023/24, including £1.4 million on condition works.

Former Tory council leader Tony Cox said he didn’t believe the increase in pier entrance fee was responsible for falling visitors to the attraction.

He said: “We had the 6pm to 9pm parking charges in there but there was also a higher rate of parking charges. Now it’s gone up again. We stopped the 6pm to 9pm but it was already there. There is less visitors to the pier.”

Council finances ended the year better than expected with a £1.9 million overspend - £4.4 million better than expected.

In July last year the council warned it could end the 2023/24 financial year with a £14 million deficit. The council introduced a range of cost-cutting measures, including voluntary redundancies and by November this had reduced to £6.3 million. The final overspend for the year now sits at £1.9 million.

Mr Cox added: “It was a Herculean effort by the administration.

“When we took power it was £9million then by July it was £14 million and urgent action was needed. It was important to get it back as close to zero as possible.”

The biggest strain on council finances - adult social care - showed an overspend of £2.2million but this was a £2.7 million improvement on the forecast £4.9 million.

Homelessness and rough sleeping cost the council £200,000 “because of increased bed and breakfast spend through the winter period linked to wider cost-of-living pressures in some locations across the city”.