Essex County Council faces having to save more than £1 million every week for the next four years.
That was the challenge set out by Cllr David Finch, Leader of Essex Council, as the Council s budget for the next year was approved at a meeting of the Authority s Full Council yesterday.
The approved budget will see Council Tax rise by 1.99 per cent while the Government s Social Care levy of 2 per cent will also be introduced.
Cllr John Spence, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: Today s budget shows the difficult decisions we need to take in order to secure Essex s future, and ensure we can protect frontline services and care for our most vulnerable residents.
We are proud of being a low tax council, but the impact of cuts from Government gives us little option but to make this increase, equating to 84p per week for a Band D property. Within the budget we have also had to set out significant savings of over £76 million, as well as drawing £24 million from reserves, and this will mean over the coming months we will need to look at every aspect of our business and how services are delivered.
Despite the pressures, the budget outlines £1.8 billion of spending on public services for residents and a £1 billion capital investment plan for the next three years.
Cllr David Finch, Leader of Essex County Council, added: The savings over the coming year and beyond mean we need to have a truly open and honest conversation with residents as services continue to be remodelled.
I am however very pleased that within this budget we also set out significant spending on our infrastructure. In recent days we have announced investment into our Highways and Schools programme, building the roads to keep Essex moving and creating almost 10,000 school places to make sure every child in Essex gets a place at a great school.
We remain a highly ambitious council, and we have set out five key priorities that will be our mantra over the coming years.
We will work to become an economic powerhouse, as we know economic growth is the key to creating a prosperous and healthy county.
We will take care of our elderly and young investing in programmes that support the most vulnerable and help people live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.
We will create a first class education system as we know that education is the key that unlocks the doors to opportunity.
We will build sustainable public services through joining up services, bringing forward innovation such as our recently announced community hubs.
We will ensure a greater role for local communities, looking at who is best placed to provide services and pushing forward the case for devolution.
These priorities will not be easy to deliver, but we are not a council that shies away from a challenge, and we remain as committed as ever to our overarching ambition of improving the lives of residents.
Cllr David Finch, Leader of Essex County Council, set out five key areas for investment during his budget speech.
An economic powerhouse
Investing over £200 million in an Essex growth package to boost economic growth by creating jobs, investing in roads and infrastructure, stimulating trade, and supporting business growth
Investing in innovation centres in Harlow and Colchester.
Regenerating town centres in Basildon and Hadleigh.
Investing £43 million in a pioneering housing programme to boost growth and provide homes that will support people to live independently.
£114 million highways maintenance package will keep Essex moving by improving traffic congestion, local roads, footpaths, and bridges.
Taking care of our elderly and vulnerable
In 2016/17, we will be spending £418 million on adult social care.
Investing in programmes that will help people live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.
Developing new and innovative programme focusing on prevention and early intervention.
A first class education system
Investing more than £365 million over the next three years in one of the biggest school building programme the county has ever seen, creating nearly 10,000 new schools places.
Radically overhaul and increase the provision of Special Education, spending £57 million on new special schools and pupil referral units across the county.
Sustainable public services
In 2016/17, we will take a further £7 million out of our back office costs.
Generate an additional £10 million by tackling council tax fraud and improving collection.
Save over £1 million by bringing services together under one roof, like moving our registration services into our libraries.
Make the best use of publically owned land to deliver new homes that will help vulnerable people live more independently.
A greater role for local communities
Looking at who is best placed to provide services whether that is our districts, town or parish councils, or even communities themselves.
Move to a model where we facilitate people helping themselves and each other, building on the success of innovative initiatives like Community Agents and local designed Community Hubs.