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Essex County Council plan to freeze council tax for fifth year

Politics / Tue 20th Jan 2015 at 10:36am

PLANS for Essex County Council to freeze its council tax for the fifth successive year and invest around £270 million next year in the county’s roads, schools and flood defences are to be discussed at Cabinet next week.

The Council is also signalling its desire to invest more than £1 billion over the next five years to 2019/2020 into further improvements of Essex’s roads, creating new schools places and other infrastructure projects. This is dependent on government funding and the council continuing its disciplined financial approach to managing its finances.

Under the proposals for next year the Council would set the lowest Council Tax of any county council in the eastern region, and invest in schemes to ensure Essex remains one of the leading counties in the UK.

But it also highlights that tough decisions still lie ahead for the authority to balance its budget in future years in the face of continued pressure on services and reductions in government funding.

The Council is seeking to invest around £270 million next year into a range of key projects including:

£131 million in the county’s highways and transportation network, including £4 million (£10 million over two years) to support the design of and consultation on improvements on the A120 and the Chelmsford North East bypass
Nearly £79 million to provide 3,000 additional primary school places in the 2015/2016 academic year and other improvements in our schools
The start of a five year programme to develop flood defences
Ensuring there is superfast broadband for our communities and businesses
Supporting our vulnerable people to live as independently as possible.
Other investments proposed for this year include £32 million for transport services including local bus routes, community transport services and concessionary bus passes for the elderly and disabled.

The Council is also looking to provide a £5.1 million funding net increase to support Adult Social Care Services – which will help people live as independently as possible and enhance their quality of life

Deputy Leader of Essex County Council, Cllr Kevin Bentley, said: “We have developed a budget that, despite the challenges we are facing, will deliver major investment in Essex benefiting families and business alike.

“We are investing in the issues people are most concerned about. This includes creating more places in our schools, improving our road network and providing increased protection from the weather for our coastal communities. We are also looking after the most vulnerable in our communities and boosting economic growth through supporting businesses.”

The proposals also highlights the Council needs to develop schemes saving £72 million in 2015/2016 and a total of £180 million – around £200,000 a day – by April 2018.

Cabinet member for Finance, Cllr John Spence, added: “We have produced a budget supporting our communities, businesses and our ambitions for Essex. It is a budget that invests in long- term solutions for our county rather than simply applying quick-fix sticking plasters.

“However, there are still challenging times ahead with austerity set to continue until at least 2020. We cannot and will not shirk from the difficult decisions ahead of us and will maintain our financial disciplines to ensure we provide the support this county and its communities need.”

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