Over the last few days, councils up and down the country have begun to announce their budget plans for the coming financial year.
Today we unveil our proposals for Essex.
Like all other councils, we are facing unprecedented financial pressures through increasing demand, rising inflation and growing interest rates. Disappointingly, the funding settlement we received from government was not enough to match the pressures.
This has meant we have had to scrutinise our budgets and really think differently about how we do things in Essex.
Our proposals set out to continue to invest in and protect essential services, particularly for our most vulnerable residents.
We have also set out to maintain our capital programme which funds infrastructure such as roads, schools and housing for 2024 and beyond.
We also have a proud track record of delivering efficiency savings for our residents. We have saved over £1 billion since 2008 and we intend to save £32 million in 2024/25.
Even though we have worked hard to secure significant savings, it still isn’t enough. In order to balance the books, we’ve had to make some difficult decisions, particularly on council tax.
These are not choices we have made lightly.
An increase in council tax is unavoidable. Although Essex remains in the bottom third for tax rates across county councils, we know any proposed council tax increase will not be welcome news for many.
But that increase would help bridge the gap seen nationally in children’s services, adult social care and Home to School Transport, with rising demand and complexity creating significant pressures for Essex in 2024/25.
Taking care of those adults and children that need care or support is at the heart of our budget. 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.
This extra funding is needed now and into the long term. It will place Essex in a more stable financial position in the coming years and allow us to plan with greater certainty.
Myself and all my colleagues at Essex County Council remain committed to achieving the best possible value for money for our residents. We have a strong plan for the future of Essex. I believe residents and businesses can trust us to deliver on it.
Find out more about our budget proposals for 2024/25 at our website.