A £5million fund to enable action on climate change and an independent commission to oversee the work are key elements of draft budget plans published today by Essex County Council.
The Council’s draft Organisation Plan and budget for 2020/21 outlines plans for significant investment in services and infrastructure.
Also proposed is an extra £5million for highways to enable investment in improving the condition of roads and pavements, and new investment in technology to support social care case management, more money to help meeting increased demand for home to school transport and adults and children’s social care.
For the second year running, more than £200 million has been earmarked for capital investment, including housing schemes, major infrastructure improvements such as the A127 Fairglen interchange, and new schools for children with Special Education Needs and Disability.
According to papers published today (Tuesday 14 January), the overall financial picture remains challenging, with the Council’s future revenue support and social care grant from central government uncertain, plus the impact of inflation, population growth, the new National Living Wage and increasing demand for services.
This has necessitated a proposed ECC council tax increase of 1.99%, alongside the continuation for a further year of the Government’s social care precept of 2%.
This would mean the annual bill for a band ‘D’ property in Essex for County Council services would be £1,321.11, a weekly increase of 97p – meaning the increase for an average household would be below £1 a week, again for the second year running.
Cllr David Finch, Leader of Essex County Council, said:
“Action speaks louder than words and we intend to use our new fund to take action on climate change. We will be advised on how we can get the maximum from that investment by an Independent Climate Change Commission, which we are in the process of establishing.
“Our budget proposals strike the right balance between an affordable increase, and investing and protecting in the services residents told us are the most important to them in our budget consultation.
“Our proposals reflect the people’s priorities – so caring for vulnerable people and investing in roads and infrastructure, for example, are high on the list.
“For a Band D household, the proposed increase in Council Tax is 97p a week, which we believe strikes the right balance between protecting services and paying just a little bit extra for them.
“Inflation, increasing demand and uncertainty around our core grants mean that the financial outlook is still challenging. But we have an outstanding record of providing value to tax-payers and for two years running we have appeared in the top ten most productive councils. We’ve saved over £1million a week, every week, over the past four years through cutting waste, innovating and doing business more efficiently, and this will continue.”
The Council’s Cabinet will meet to approve the proposals on Tuesday 21 January, before they go to Full Council for final approval on Tuesday 12 February.