Essex County Council outlines first year of action kickstarting real change
Essex County Council today outlined the action it has taken, and continues to take, to create a better future for all county residents.
At a Full Council meeting of Essex County Council today, Leader Cllr Kevin Bentley set out the action the council cabinet took within its first 100 days of being elected in May 2021. Cllr Bentley then outlined the council’s ongoing Everyone’s Essex strategy for the future.
To hit the ground running after election, the new ECC cabinet set out its ambitions in a 100 Day Plan based on the core principles of Renewal, Equality, and Ambition. This plan set out the actions the Council would take to kickstart real change in the county.
Cllr Bentley then outlined the long term aims of the ongoing Everyone’s Essex four-year strategy which includes 20 commitments across 4 aims:
- for a strong, inclusive, and sustainable economy
- for a high-quality environment
- for health, wellbeing, and independence for all ages; and
- for a good place for our children and families to grow
Cllr Kevin Bentley said: “Today, I’m pleased and proud to tell full council and all residents of Essex; We said, we did!
“I am a great believer in two things: first, that everyone should have the chance to reach for the stars, it doesn’t matter if they touch them but they should have the opportunity to do so; and second that a society is judged by the way it cares for its elderly and most vulnerable members.
“We are facing up to huge challenges – particularly in the short term – around inflation and the cost of living crisis that will make things difficult for many of our residents – we will continue to work day and night to do what we can to offset these pressures.
But that makes us even more determined not to be distracted from our long-term commitment towards climate change and levelling up the county.
“Our work to improve the long-term lives of all county residents does not mean we are not concentrating on the vital day to day services we deliver as an authority, such as repairing our roads, ensuring children have an excellent level of education and facilitating care for vulnerable elderly people and young children.
“We are strengthening our communities and creating partnerships with other public bodies, promoting Essex as a great county to visit and a well-connected base for a dynamic business.
“Economic prosperity, educational opportunity, strong communities, efficient infrastructure, and good and joined-up public services remain the core ingredients needed to help our people and places thrive.”
To build a strong, inclusive and sustainable economy, Essex County Council has already:
- Launched a levelling up programme in four locations across the county and in so doing committed investment for a new Electric Vehicle skills programme in Harlow; a £500k community fund; social supermarkets; a community hub; literacy corners in our libraries
- Worked with the Government’s Kickstart scheme to create over 600 new roles to help unemployed young people into short term paid employment and provide them with local work experience opportunities
- Invested £10.5million in a Business Adaptation Grant Scheme, supporting more than 3,500 Covid impacted local businesses to apply for grants of up to £5000
- Invested £100,000 in the COVID Recovery Academy, supporting 200 recently unemployed adults with the training they need to get into jobs in key sectors
- Completed a roads maintenance programme to repair over 1 million square metres of roads and 40 thousand square metres of footpaths and cycleways
To create a high-quality environment in Essex, the council has in the past year:
- Supported the ongoing work of the Essex Climate Action Commission which published the 'Net Zero: Making Essex Carbon Neutral' report on how everyone can help make the county carbon neutral by 2050. In response we’ve established a £200million climate action plan to deliver on the recommendations made by the Commission.
- Launched a new £500,000 Climate Action Challenge Fund to support community action on climate, offering grants of up to £20,000 to support voluntary and community projects tackling climate change in the county – with over £100,000 already awarded
- Installed more than 27,000 LED streetlights through year 1 of a 3 year programme to replace street lighting across Essex
- Undertaken a pilot programme to expand three secondary schools using construction methods designed to deliver net-zero, future-proofed, inclusive school buildings. We’ve also helped install roof mounted solar panels at 29 schools across the county.
- Enabled over 350,000 e-scooter journeys as part of its Department for Transport funded pilot.
To build health, wellbeing and independence for all ages, over the past year Essex Council has:
- Launched the Active Essex “Find your Active” campaign supported by a £1.25 million fund to enable hundreds of local clubs and organisations to take part in the campaign to provide activities for local people
- Launched the Active Essex “Fit for the Future” Strategy aimed at levelling up the playing field across Essex by supporting those who are already active and tackling head on the inequalities that currently prevent others from accessing the life changing impact of an active lifestyle
- Launched Essex Pedal Power, a £2.7 million community-based project being piloted in Clacton and Jaywick Sands. The scheme is the first of its kind in Essex and will provide more than 1,500 local residents with a free quality bike to get them more active and travel for work, school, college, shopping, and leisure.
- Launched the new Essex Care Technology Service to support people with care needs access and use the latest technology to help them to live as independently as possible and improve their quality of life
- Opened the Community Initiatives Fund 2021 for applications for individuals, groups, and voluntary organisations to apply for grant funding of up to £10,000 for projects that benefit their local community.
To ensure Essex is a good place for children and families to grow, Essex County Council has this year taken action which includes:
- Announcing a £1million investment in reading through the Essex Education Task Force, to support children and young people affected by the loss of learning and missed opportunities during the Covid-19 pandemic. This investment is targeted at the Essex Year of Reading 2022 which launched in February and is already building real enthusiasm.
- Delivering school improvement with 89.5% of schools across Essex judged to be good or outstanding by March 2022
- Launching a Family Friendly Employers Charter which set out a series of principles on how employers can help parents and carers manage their work and caring commitments – and to date 15 firms employing over 37,000 employees
- Launching a pilot programme to support emotional wellbeing and behaviour in schools, including £100,000 for schools to access additional support from the local voluntary and community sector in pilot areas of Basildon and Clacton
- Establishing a Safety Advisory Group for women’s safety in Essex, which is undertaking research into local needs and issues, which will inform recommendations on changes to help make Essex a safer place.