It’s a fitting tribute to David Amess for Southend-on-Sea to become a city

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aAmong other monuments to the life and work of Sir David Ames, it seems entirely appropriate that Southend-on-Sea would be granted town status, something he had long campaigned for. This is in particular recognition of the fact that he died because of his work and his duties as a public servant, and of his special affinity for the constituency of Southend West. It also seems inevitable, as it is given by the Queen on the advice of the Lord Chancellor. There were some unfair “contests” for the prize in 2000, 2002 and 2011, among which Brighton, Lisburn, Inverness and Chelmsford were promoted, but it need not be won as such. The prime minister announced on Monday that the Queen had agreed that Southend would be given “the city status it clearly deserves”.

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Aside from all this, Southend has a case for town status in any case. Historically, although still not necessarily or automatically, a place calling itself a “city” was associated with having a Roman fort or having its own cathedral, or being “incorporated” to a local authority, which was the ancient authority of the mayor. He was the successor to the appointment. Being a sheriff, burgess and bailiff, or of a certain size, and industrial strength, as well as being relatively “large” by contemporary standards. In Scotland, the rules of burghs also differed historically. Nowadays it’s not quite random, but it’s discretionary. What is the difference between a big city and a small city? To the residents, none other than that slight sign of prestige and impatience. There are 69 formal cities in the UK, and many more would love to be.


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