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In 1998, the boroughs of Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock were granted autonomy from the administrative county of Essex after successful requests to become unitary authorities (numbered 13 and 14 on the map to the right).

Colchester is a garrison town, and the local economy is helped by the Army's personnel living there.

Basildon is the location of State Street Corporation's United Kingdom HQ International Financial Data Services, and remains heavily dependent on London for employment, due to its proximity and direct transport routes.

Its territory was later restricted to lands east of the River Lea.