‘Significant challenges’ ahead after government cash grant announced

Leader of Essex County Council Cllr David Finch. PIcture: PAUL STARR

Leader of Essex County Council Cllr David Finch. PIcture: PAUL STARR - Credit: Archant

Council chiefs in Essex say they will be faced with tough choices next year after a disappointing cash grant from central government.

Police and crime commissioner for Essex, Roger Hirst. Picture: ABBIE WEAVING

Police and crime commissioner for Essex, Roger Hirst. Picture: ABBIE WEAVING - Credit: Archant

Authorities across the country will be able to put up bills by 3% with a further 1% “social care precept” to increase spending in that area.

Essex County Council leader David Finch said: “The headlines from the finance settlement for Essex make for disappointing reading – there are no changes or improvements to what we were expecting, there were few surprises other than the small slice of a national business rates surplus, and there is no opportunity for Essex to benefit from becoming one of the business rate pilot schemes which the Secretary of State announced.

“This latter omission is a shame, as this would have enabled us to retain three-quarters of the business rates collected locally and then decide ourselves, in Essex instead of in Whitehall, where and how that money should be spent.

“There are still significant challenges ahead. Austerity might be ending, but its effects remain with us.

“We will need to make some tough choices, but the right choices for the long-term good.

“So we will carry on doing the right thing – building an Essex for the future, changing how we work to fit with people’s lives.

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“Providing services today in the way that we provided them 20 years ago won’t work; we live in a digital world where we work differently, bank differently, shop differently – we need to embrace that, so we offer services which are relevant to how people live today.

“There is also the ever-present need to continue to look after our most vulnerable; ours is an ever-ageing, ever-growing population with ever-more complex needs. But we are as committed to protecting Essex’s vulnerable children and older people as ever.

“These are challenges which we need to face and overcome as we finalise our budget for the coming financial year.

“I know that we will. Because we have the track record of having done so over the past decade.”

Roger Hirst, Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, will be able to put up the police share of the council tax by £24 – and has asked senior officers to look at what might be achieved with such an increase.

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