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Essex leader welcomes budget and calls for more flexibility for councils

16 March 2016

More flexibility for local government is vital to the future of delivering services, Essex County Council Leader David Finch has said.

Speaking in response to the Chancellor’s budget, Cllr Finch has called on the Government to provide more powers to help councils deliver key services.

Cllr Finch said: “It is pleasing to see that the Chancellor is looking to tackle the country’s deficit head on, and I welcome announcements made today. We heard a lot in his speech about the need to plan for the future and protect the next generation, and we believe that giving flexibility to local government is key to this.

“In the coming years we will see council services funded primarily through council tax and business rates, and so we need local councils empowered to drive forward the growth we have the potential to deliver.

“However, we also need to see more engagement with, and understanding of, the challenges we face on the ground, such as for example tackling what is an increasing gap in the social care budget.”

Essex has one of the oldest populations in the country, with the number of over 85's due to double in the next decade. The Council spends over £1m every day on social care, a third of its overall budget.

Cllr Finch added: “We will see more money in the system in four years’ time through the Better Care Fund, but why not bring this forward now.

“Giving councils more flexibility would lead to more innovation, for example we have seen the announcement of a lifetime ISA, but why not look at a Help to Care ISA, targeted at the over 50’s who may have care needs in ten to 20 years-time and need to start saving now? In protecting the next generation, we also need to focus on our older generation.

“Decisions and mechanisms to tackle these issues, and the taxes used to fund them are best decided at a local level, and so we need to see more power give to the most appropriate level.”