A £300 million investment in roads, schools and new homes will help Essex reach its “enormous untapped” economic potential as the Council’s budget was agreed today.
Essex County Council’s £1.8 billion spending plan for 2018/19 was approved at Full Council, including a 4.99% rise in Council Tax.
Cllr David Finch, Leader of the Council, said: “The budget approved today means we can continue building the future our residents and business deserve.
“Economic growth will improve not only the living standards of people in Essex, but also their health and wellbeing, opportunities and life chances.
“We all know there is enormous untapped opportunity in our economy and an entrepreneurial spirit that is hard-wired into our DNA, which we must capitalise on in the future.”
This includes developing an Industrial Strategy for the county, investing £14 million in superfast broadband, £126 million into major road schemes and maintenance, plus an extra £3 million for pothole and footpath repairs.
The budget also includes £87 million for mainstream schools and £17 million for special schools to create an extra 2,750 school places to ensure our children get the best start in life.
“The Essex population is set to rise by more than 230,000 people over the next 20 years,” said Cllr Finch.
“Therefore we are committed to enabling housing growth in a way that the characteristics of the county we cherish so dearly are protected and enhanced. We want Essex to be a great place to grow up, live and work, therefore we are not just building new homes, we are building communities.
“These communities can act as the catalyst for economic growth.
“In the next year we will work with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to develop a strong partnership approach towards securing new homes and infrastructure in sustainable garden communities.”
The continued reduction in central Government funding, which will disappear completely by 2020, combined with increasing demand for services, increases in inflation, business rates and National Living Wage payments, mean the Council has increased Council Tax for only the third time in the last eight years.
It will rise by 2% through the Government’s social care precept, which will be ring-fenced to adult social care, and 2.99% to support the delivery of vital services such as highways, public transport, libraries and recycling centres.
It represents a £1.12 per week rise for the average Band D property.
Cllr Louise McKinlay, Cabinet Member for Resources, added: “This is only the third tax increase time in the last eight years, which followed five consecutive years of council tax freezes.
“We feel this is realistic and proportionate. Previously we have found other ways to cope with the costs of rising demand on services, along with increases in inflation, business rates and National Living Wage payments.
“Just like ordinary families, we are not immune to pressures like inflation. But our track record of doing the right thing and not increasing tax has seen us keep £161 million in the pockets of Essex taxpayers to spend how they wish.”