Essex announces £300m budget spending plan

Essex County Council’s budget proposals for 2018/19 include investment in the region’s roads, schools and homes, as well as a commitment to digital innovation.

The council is proposing to increase Council Tax for the third time in the last eight years, rising by two per cent through the government’s social care precept, which will be ring-fenced to adult social care, and 2.99 per cent to support the delivery of vital services such as highways, public transport, libraries and recycling centres. This will mean a £1.12 per week increase for the average Band D property.

The £300 million will be spent on improving Essex’s infrastructure - including a £14 million investment for broadband, £87 million into mainstream schools, £17 million into special schools, £9 million into housing, £126 million into major road schemes and maintenance, plus an extra £3 million for potholes and pavement repairs.

David Finch, leader of the council, said: “This is a positive, practical and prioritised set of proposals. It takes a balanced and realistic budget view but at the same time, proposes record investment in key services and infrastructure. We have growing demand for essential services and meeting that demand with dwindling resources is a huge challenge. But we can face this challenge with confidence and strength – our track record for efficiency and innovation is second to none.

“Like households and businesses, councils are not immune to inflation and increasing costs. This year, we are asking for a little over £1 a week more from the average household to enable us to protect and invest in essential services which our communities rely on – care, roads, transport, education and environment. We will also continue to fight Essex’s corner and press the government to provide social care reform, 100 per cent business rate retention and a fair deal on funding for local government, so we have a level playing field on which to grow ours and the national economy in the post-Brexit world.”

The budget will be put to the cabinet before it is put to the vote at full council on 13 February.

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