Essex County Council sets out plans to “protect essential services and deliver on priorities”

General / Fri 12th Jan 2024 at 08:41am

ESSEX County Council’s 2024/25 £2 billion budget proposals have been published.

Protecting essential services amid huge financial pressures for local government is the key priority in Essex County Council’s 2024/25 budget proposals.

Published today (Monday 8 January 2024), the plans set out how the council intends to deal with financial pressures and maintain and develop services throughout the next year.

The council has a track record of strong financial management, having saved over £1 billion since 2008, with further proposed savings of £32 million in 2024/25 and an additional £20 million anticipated in 2025/26.

However, the council, along with the rest of local government, is currently facing unprecedented pressures on its budgets. 

A combination of continuing high interest rates and inflation, growing demand for services and a disappointing financial settlement from central government are all factors impacting budget decisions.

For the 2024/25 financial year, the council is proposing a council tax increase of 2.99%, plus the 2% adult social care precept. This will help provide more certainty in the medium term and offer greater stability in future years.

The increase would help bridge the gap seen nationally in children’s services, adult social care and Home to School Transport, with rising costs, demand and complexity creating £80 million-worth of pressures for Essex in 2024/25

Increased council tax would see £16 million invested into supporting older people and adults with disabilities, while £14 million would go towards protecting the most vulnerable children in the county.

£10 million would also partly offset rising costs for Home to School Transport, particularly for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

In addition, the council will continue delivering a range of schemes to maintain, enhance and deliver major new public assets, as part of its long-term capital spending programme. 

These include the new station at Chelmsford’s Beaulieu Park, the Chelmsford North-Eastern Bypass and Colchester/Tendring A120-A133 link road and rapid transit scheme. They also include ongoing highways maintenance and new school buildings.

Essex would remain in the bottom third for tax rate across shire authorities.

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Chancellor of Essex, said: “It’s no secret that local government is currently facing significant financial pressures and unfortunately Essex is not immune to them. We know these challenges are felt by many of our residents too. 

“However, I am confident our latest budget proposals reflect the best possible balance of protecting and developing essential services while continuing to focus on priority areas which residents have helped us establish. We will also continue work to improve our county’s infrastructure. We have a robust plan for the coming year and the years ahead.

“It’s also important, now more than ever, to ensure we’re achieving the best possible value for money for taxpayers. This year’s proposed council tax increase will mean finding an extra £1.39 a week for a typical Band D property household.

“We know any increase will not be welcome news for many and this isn’t something we do lightly. However, given the current economic outlook and demand pressures, it is something we are unable to avoid. This increase will place us in a more stable position in the coming years and allow us to plan with greater certainty in the medium term.

“I am proud that we have again been able to balance the books in Essex for the coming year. But I want to be clear that without significant interventions and support from central government, more and more difficult decisions lie ahead for councils in the future.”

To inform these latest budget proposals, the council held a public budget consultation at the end of last year. Thousands of people shared what matters most to them and their family.  Key themes include concerns about the NHS and community safety.

The 2024/25 budget proposals will be presented at the council’s Cabinet meeting on 16 January and at its Full Council meeting on 13 February.

View the budget proposals at: https://cmis.essex.gov.uk/essexcmis5/CalendarofMeetings/tabid/73/ctl/ViewMeetingPublic/mid/410/Meeting/5211/Committee/36/SelectedTab/Documents/Default.aspx. 

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