Essex County Council has promised to fight for a fair deal for Essex residents, following the publication of its budget plans for the coming year.
Following unprecedented cuts to its government grants, the Council is set to lose £57m of funding next year, while a number of new national policies such as the National Living Wage will also have a significant financial impact.
Cllr John Spence, Cabinet Member for Finance at Essex County Council said: “We are committed to fighting for a fair deal for Essex residents. The policies being made at a national level are laudable and understandable, but the collective impact of these, alongside cuts and a growing social care bill, means we face a budget pressure of £120m next year. And so, we are calling on Government to look again at the impact and the needs of individual councils rather than simply redistributing funding to poorer performing areas of the country.”
To meet this challenge, the Council is proposing an increase in Council Tax of 1.99 per cent while also implementing the Government’s new Social Care Tax, an additional 2 per cent. This would mean a total increase of 84p per household per week for a Band D property.
Cllr Spence added: “As an efficient and effective authority we have to look at how we manage this impact, continue to protect our most vulnerable residents through key frontline services and deliver a balanced budget. These demands leave us with little option but to increase Council Tax; the first rise in five years.
“This rise, alongside the Social Care Tax, will mean an additional £22m for the Council, which alongside £24m drawn from reserves and further savings of £76m will mean we can balance the books for the coming year.
“Despite this challenge, we remain an ambitious and forward thinking council, and I am very pleased we have been able to continue to meet our commitment to invest into capital projects. This year we will increase the capital budget to more than £250m into essential building and infrastructure such as schools, highways and flood defence. A particular goal is to continue the improvement in the condition of roads.”
Essex County Council has been at the forefront of innovation in the management and remodelling of services over the last decade, already saving £521m whilst maintaining a five-year Council Tax freeze.
Cllr Spence said: “We have a strong track record and are already looking at the additional challenges beyond 2016/17 which are posed by the four-year financial settlement. We do welcome this longer term certainty and the taxpayers can be sure that our ambition is undimmed, that our focus will be clear and that we will be dedicated to providing essential services to our communities.”
The budget proposals will be discussed by Cabinet on the 26 January, before going to a meeting of the Authority’s Full Council on 9 February. Details of the proposals can be seen here