Ambitious plans to almost double the size of Essex’s economy to £60 billion were unveiled as Essex County Council’s budget was approved by Members.
Cllr David Finch, Leader of the Council, said raising levels of qualifications and skills, improving transport infrastructure and supporting business growth were crucial to creating a prosperous and healthy county.
Full Council approved the budget 2017-18, including the implementation of the Government’s 3% social care levy, which represents a 65 pence a week council tax increase for residents living in an average Band D property.
Cllr Finch said: “We already spend more than £1.4 million a day on adult social care and the number of people over 85 who need care is set to grow by 50 per cent in the next decade.
“So we have decided to implement the 3% levy to raise an extra £17 million to support our most vulnerable people, while continuing to lobby government for a wholesale review of the system to create a sustainable care system for future generations.”
The Leader highlighted how despite the funding challenges – including a £44 million reduction in funding from Government – the budget includes spend of £1.8 billion on public services and a £263 million capital spending programme – the largest in the authority’s history and a £39 million increase on last year.
- £524 million on adult social care
- £127 million on children and families
- £668 million on education and lifelong learning
- £233 million on highways, infrastructure and public transport
- £92 million on health
“Over the last four years this administration has kept Council Tax low to support all our residents, especially those who are just about managing,” Cllr Finch said.
“We’ve invested £191 million in extra school places – 26,000 new places by 2025 – and 91% of schools are now classified as good or outstanding, up from 70% four years ago.
“We’ve also invested £681 million in improving transport infrastructure and defects on major routes are at a record low and among the best in the country.
“On top of that we’ve helped protect 443 properties against risk of flooding and aim to protect 2,300 homes by 2020; pledged to build 1,800 new homes that enable older people to live independently for longer; paved the way for three new Garden Communities to meet the county’s housing needs; and brought superfast broadband to more than 75,000 homes.”
Cllr Finch set out four key priorities to “secure Essex’s future”.
“Our first priority is to turn Essex into an economic engine room, by boosting the economy from £33 billion to £60 billion by 2025,” Cllr Finch said.
“We want to enable people to live independently for as long as possible and deliver care to society’s most vulnerable people as and when they need it.
“We will help create great places to live and work by giving local communities more power to shape decision-making, including the £1 million Sustainable Communities Fund for local people and groups to inspire change.
“Our fourth priority is to deliver sustainable public services that are not only high quality, but provide value for money well into the future. In an increasingly competitive world, we want Essex to speak with one voice and punch above its weight where it really matters.”
Cllr John Spence, Cabinet Member for Finance, added: “It is necessary and laudable to manage today, but it takes courage, inventiveness and resilience to create the future. This Council will continue to create a better future for the residents and businesses of Essex.”
Meawnwhilel ocal communities will be able to do more for themselves and charities will benefit from a new Essex lottery scheme later this year, following announcements made by the Leader of the County Council today.
Speaking at today’s meeting where the Council’s budget was approved, Cllr David Finch said that local people were in the best position to know what could make the biggest difference in their area, and both schemes would support the principle.
The first of the two schemes, the Supporting Communities Fund, will make £1 million available to support getting new, locally-focussed services which support local communities off the ground, and also to support ‘local action’ with smaller amounts of money available to local groups, organisations or individuals.
Through the schemes, funding for a handyman scheme for older people might be available, local schemes to promote recycling might be supported, or community initiatives which help tackle social isolation might be backed.
The Essex Lottery would provide a funding stream for local Essex-based charities, which would be selected by an independent panel.
People buying lottery tickets online would be able to select which charitable cause they wanted to support through buying a ticket, with a prize draw being made on a weekly basis. Cash prizes from £100 up to potential five-figure sums would be available through the draw.
Both schemes are due to be launched in the Autumn.
Cllr Finch told the Council: “Local communities are best placed to understand the small but significant pieces of work, which will make a real difference to their lives and local areas.
“And this fund, for the first time gives them the money to help get their schemes off the ground.”
More details on the schemes will be available in the coming months.