THE new leader of Southend Council Daniel Cowan says he is doing all he can to help save Southend United.

Concerned Shrimpers supporters are still sweating on the future of the football club as the council must complete their due diligence on the housing project planned for Fossetts Farm before the consortium can officially take charge of the club.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Cowan stressed he fully understands the importance of the issue but warned it would take time to sort.

“There is a perception that the council should be getting on with its part of this quicker,” said Cowan.

“We understand this perception, but the council has been getting on with it.

“However, carefully working out whether this deal is right for the city, the council and residents is not a simple thing.

“Many of us will know that even buying and selling a house can take many months.

“This is a half a billion-pound project with huge opportunities and risks for the council and therefore the taxpayers of the city.

“It is not something we can just jump into lightly or without very detailed consideration.”

The consortium swapped contracts with Blues’ controversial chairman Ron Martin for the sale of the club back in December and have since pumped £3.5million into keeping the Shrimpers going.

But they are still waiting in the wings as the council carry out their duties.

“As a public body, the council has a legal duty to ensure the part of the deal we are involved in represents value for money over the long-term and is something that the council can financially sustain into the future,” explained Cowan.

“The transaction that the council is working on for the large-scale development of land at Fossetts Farm is complex and relatively specialist in nature.

“It requires extensive due diligence."

Cowan went on to explain there are four elements to the due diligence which cover market/property, financial, legal and external audits.

He stressed the situation required specialist and external advice and was being funded by the developer not the council.

However, Cowan also added the council had not received full details of the housing development until March.

“As the April cabinet report also stated, although headline terms were agreed in principle, subject to the due diligence, on 1 January 2024, the council did not have visibility of the proposed housing development until 21 March,” said Cowan.

“Outstanding information is still required from the developer including specification and gross area of properties for example.

“This means some work so far has been based on assumptions and all parties need to be comfortable with any risks around this.

“It may be that the due diligence process will also pose further questions which will need to be addressed.

“This is not yet known.”

Blues were at risk of being wound up last summer but somehow managed to finish ninth in the National League standings despite the off-field issues.

The Shrimpers were placed in a transfer embargo for 15 months due to money owed to HMRC which also saw them deducted 10 points.

Staff also went three months without being paid before the consortium’s arrival.

However, there are still extreme fears for the club’s future.

A winding up petition from Stewart’s Law has twice been adjourned and has also resulted in Blues being placed in another embargo.

But Cowan wants the whole situation to be dealt with properly.

“The council wants to make this work, but it also has a duty to ensure this is done properly and that the council protects itself and its taxpayers from any undue financial risk,” said Cowan.

“It is a significant and complex transaction, and the background work unfortunately takes time.”

But work has already began.

“The new cabinet and officers met on Tuesday night to discuss several matters, including this,” said Cowan.

“I know that officers are working as hard as they can with our advisors to complete the due diligence work that will enable a decision to be taken by the council.

“This work is not all in the council’s hands, but we are pushing this as much as we can, and whilst we cannot pre-empt the findings of this process, we will report back as soon as possible.

“The council’s position has been consistent throughout and as raised during scrutiny, once the various elements of outstanding due diligence are completed, these will need to be carefully read and understood so that the relevant councillors can be briefed.”

After that, Cowan admitted there were three possible outcomes.

“If the conclusion of this stage of due diligence (property/market and financial) is that the deal should be cleared to progress, then the council must get its external auditors to review everything and be satisfied that everything is in the council and taxpayers’ best interests,” said Cowan.

“If the conclusion is that the transaction is very close to being cleared to progress subject to a small number of minor adjustments, then further negotiation will be needed to see if these matters can be resolved to enable matters to proceed. Citizen Housing might decide to engage with other parties at this point.

“If the conclusion of this stage of due diligence is that the transaction is not in the council and taxpayers’ interest, and it should not proceed, then we will share that position.

“Further stages of work will not be required, at which point an alternative partner to the council will certainly be required for the development to progress.

“There will of course be different considerations for the football club and consortium itself associated with each of these potential outcomes.”