LOSING Debenhams from Southend town centre would be a “major blow” to the town’s high street economy, council bosses say.

Council leader Ian Gilbert spoke after it emerged the High Street retailer is on the brink of filing for administration for the second time in a year.

It would also be a huge blow for Basildon, which has seen a number of big names, including M&S leave in recent years.

Currently, Debenhams has 142 stores closed and the majority of the 22,000 staff on furlough.

Debenhams is one of the largest businesses remaining in both Basildon and Southend, with shops in the Eastgate Centre and Royals Shopping Centre respectively.

Mr Gilbert insisted the presence of Debenhams in the town is “vital” for future successes.

He said: “I understand that Debenhams entering administration is a short-term move to protect the business from creditors whilst a rescue package is put together.

“I very much hope that the store continues to trade as it’s a vital part of the High Street economy.

“Losing Debenhams would certainly be a major blow.”

He hopes news of the council’s deal with Southend United to build homes around a proposed stadium on Fossetts Farm, rather than shops, will attract extra investment in the town.

Debenhams would also be seen as a huge loss in Basildon, just two years after the closure of the town’s large M&S.

Basildon Council’s deputy leader, Independent councillor Kerry Smith, said: “This is bad news for any high street but particularly for Basildon. However, when we formed this rainbow alliance that controls the council last year the leader, Councillor Gavin Callaghan, set about creating a town centre revival committee.

“The news about Debenhams justifies further why we need to carry on with the work being done by that committee to revive our dying town centre.”