Council tax to rise by 4.6%

RESIDENTS in Essex are facing an increase of 4.6% on their council tax bills for the coming year, it has been revealed.The figure was hailed by the leader of Essex County Council yesterdayas the second lowest increase in the county since the tax was introduced and came despite the lowest possible settlement from central government.

RESIDENTS in Essex are facing an increase of 4.6% on their council tax bills for the coming year, it has been revealed.

The figure was hailed by the leader of Essex County Council yesterdayas the second lowest increase in the county since the tax was introduced and came despite the lowest possible settlement from central government.

The proposed figure would see the average Band D households paying £960 to the county council - an increase of more than £42.

However, the final bills dropping onto people's doorsteps are likely to be more than £1,250 once charges from district or borough councils, police and fire authorities and parish or town councils are added on.

Last night, pensioners argued the settlement would see them continue to struggle to pay the bills, with a quarter of their monthly pension swallowed up by council tax.

Lord Hanningfield, leader of the county council, said: “We have met our commitment to the people of Essex in keeping council tax rises within our 5% target.

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“We've achieved this while providing additional resources into key services, and despite having the lowest possible rise in support grant for next year of just 2%.

“This has been down to a history of careful management of resources and, in particular, reducing our back office costs and reinvesting savings in frontline services. The last year has seen us release £21million of efficiency savings to these frontline services.

“This has allowed us to cope with some dramatic inflationary pressures. Inflation in our waste service is running at almost 8%, driven by rises in fuel and landfill tax.”

The rising demand for older peoples services resulted in an increased spend of 10% in that area, adding “immense pressure” to keeping the final council tax bill down.

Barbara Williamson, chairwoman of Colchester Pensioners' Action Group, said she could not see an end to the financial struggles OAPs are facing.

“It is the continued 'drip, drip, drip' effect of the increases and here we are with just a 2% increase in pensions.

“Pensioners are worse and worse off and many are struggling to get by because one week per month of their pension goes solely on paying council tax.”

n The proposed increase will be debated at the council's cabinet meeting next Tuesday, before final confirmation by the full council on February 14.

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