Council defend reasons for increasing council tax

News / Tue 21st Jan 2014 at 12:22pm

JOB seekers, young and vulnerable people are set to receive additional support under proposals recommended by Essex County Council’s Cabinet today (Tuesday) to increase council tax for the first time in four years.

The plans, which will need to be agreed by Full Council next month, propose a below inflation 1.49 per cent rise in council tax – equating to an additional 31p a week on a band D property. The Council has frozen the council tax for the last three years.

This increase would bring in an additional £8.8 million to spend on vital services – £2.9 million more than it would have received if it had accepted the government’s freeze grant. Under the proposals this would mean an additional:

£1 million to provide more equipment and better facilities for young people – helping to build stronger communities
£1.4 million for providing care and support to people with physical and learning needs to enable them to live as independent a life as possible

£500,000 to support young people looking for jobs through helping to provide an additional 260 Apprenticeships through the Essex Apprenticeship Programme – allowing a total of 515 new apprenticeships to be created under the programme during 2014/15 in key areas like engineering, digital technologies and care services.

This extra funding would supplement the investment the Council plans to make in other areas including:

An additional £78 million to be spent on supporting building and infrastructure projects compared to this year;

£91 million of this will be spent on road and transportation schemes and £52 million for education, including £24 million to provide 2,200 more places in the county’s schools;

£89 million on road and footways maintenance (including repairing potholes), and passenger transport, to enable people to travel across Essex as safely and smoothly as possible;

£435,000 to support the work of the Council and its partners to tackle domestic violence, which affects the lives of over 40,000 people a year in Essex.

The Council has also recently launched an initiative to help save people money. The energy switching scheme has the potential of saving people more than £100 a year– over six times the amount of the recommended increase in the council tax.

In 2014/15 the Council is receiving £30 million less from the government than it received in 2013/14 while facing increasing pressure on its budgets due to rising inflation and increasing demand on its services. By 2017 the Council needs to save at least £235 million to cover the gap in funding – with £107 million savings planned to be made in 2014/15.

Leader of Essex County Council, Cllr David Finch, said: “I believe that our proposals will deliver something for every member of our community especially our young and vulnerable people and those wanting to get into work.

“Any decision to increase council tax is not something we do lightly, as we know our hard working families are still facing challenging times. The rise we are recommending is below inflation and amounts to just 31p a week which is less than the cost of a pint of milk, or a second class stamp .

“Like every family and business across Essex we need to ensure we balance our books. The pressures on our budgets and the continued cuts in government funding mean we need to radically redesign the support we provide our communities to save at least £235 million over the next three years.

“This means that we need to take tough choices. However, as a responsible Council while doing this we need to ensure we have a clear focus on how we can continue improving the lives and futures of everyone living and working in Essex.”

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