Essex County Council budget to create regional ‘powerhouse’

Chelmsford County Hall, home of Essex County Council

Chelmsford County Hall, home of Essex County Council - Credit: Lucy taylor

Essex can become a “powerhouse” despite having to make budget cuts of more than £1million each week, the county council leader has said.

Outlining the Conservative budget plans yesterday Essex County Council head David Finch said he wanted to create the “economic powerhouse” as a way of making the county more prosperous.

Mr Finch said the council had earmarked £76m worth of savings.

“We need to save over £1million every week for the next four years,” he added.

“By the end of this decade, we must find more than £300m worth of savings – and that’s on top of more than £560m in savings made since 2010.”

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Despite the cuts Mr Finch said £200m would be invested in roads and infrastructure, 1,500 jobs and 500 apprenticeships would be created and superfast broadband extended to cover 95% of the county.

Some £45m would be invested in housing and £365m in schools, with £57m for special schools.

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Savings had been made by cutting 56 offices down to nine, saving £24m, with a further £7m saved on back office costs. Another £10m will be saved by tackling council tax fraud.

Alternative spending plans outlined by the Labour and Liberal Democrat opposition groups were voted down by the Tory-led council.

Labour proposed amendments included spending £250,000 for careers advice for young people, £1m to tackle fuel poverty, £3m to be put back into the highways budget and £200,000 on stop smoking schemes.

Julie Young, Labour group leader, said: “For five years this administration has been led like lemmings over the cliff by the Secretary of State by taking the council tax freeze bribe. By doing so, we are worse off by up to £50m.”

The Lib Dems suggestions included increasing the youth and and child mental health services’ budgets by £500,000 each.

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