The Conservative group at Uttlesford District Council is calling on the Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) administration to "come clean" on its budget.

Cllr George Smith, leader of the Conservative group, warned that the council's medium term financial strategy will see it "exhausting its reserves" by 2028.

He said: "Rather than protecting services, this budget kicks difficult decisions down the road and puts those same services at risk in the future.

"Councillors have been told that UDC faces a reduction in staff and services of approximately 20 per cent over the next five years and the public deserve to know that. 

 "Rather than getting a hold of spending, all the difficult decisions around finding savings is being left to a future administration.

Saffron Walden Reporter: Cllr George Smith, leader of the Conservative group at Uttlesford District CouncilCllr George Smith, leader of the Conservative group at Uttlesford District Council (Image: Essex Police)

"Councillors have been told by officers that the difficult decisions are being left to a new administration. It is as if R4U have given up.

"Residents for Uttlesford have been quick to criticise Essex County Council over its announced savings but at least Essex CC are being honest around the scale of the challenge and taking those difficult decisions that being in a position of authority requires."

Cllr Smith also suggested other ways in which the council could raise revenue at the same time as trying to save money.

He said: "Once such source of new revenue could be to adopt the approach they take in other parts of Essex, where key roundabouts are adopted by the local authority and then let to companies for advertising space.

"This won’t resolve the serious financial issues that R4U are leaving behind but will allow some member priorities to be retained, perhaps retaining the highly valued Highway Ranger team in Uttlesford."


In response, R4U accused to the Conservatives of "lying" to voters, blaming R4U for issues outside their jurisdiction.

An R4U spokesperson said: "In leaflets distributed across Uttlesford they claim that R4U is responsible for the grim state of our roads when they know it is the Conservative county council.

"They are so determined to lie their way back into power that they will not correct, retract or apologise for misleading voters. And they are still trying to blame their dumping of the Rangers service on everyone else.

"Readers should beware of their 'end is nigh' faux horror headlines. The opposition tried this a year ago; it didn’t happen, and it is not happening, but being an election year, they will say anything.

"R4U has through its top-of-the-range commercial investments earned £16 million income for council services at no cost to tax payers, and made a £40m capital gain.

"The Tories only quote the 'do nothing' scenario. However, the action scenarios in the same document show a surplus, possible use of the £40m gain, and a project to get best value from all parts of UDC after 12 years of laissez-faire by the previous administration.

"Their claim that Essex can solve its forecast three year deficit of £200 million by selling ads on roundabouts is ludicrous.

"The choice is between a party with a strategy, and one which tells lies."