Braintree District Council freeze council tax

BRAINTREE District Council announced its intention to reduce council tax rates for 2013/14 by one per cent and aims to hold this level for the following two years.

Pending approval by its cabinet and council, the annual council tax rates are set to be reduced despite financial challenges of a reduction of nearly £3 million, in its grant from Central Government.

Graham Butland, leader of the council said: “In an age of austerity, it is all too easy to generate more funds by increasing taxes. The challenge lies in improving service provision by being more efficient and performing better.

“The proposed reduction ensures that families and pensioners in the district have one less rising bill to worry about. We have worked hard to make savings whilst prioritising our front line services and continuing to deliver value for money for our residents.”

Rather than seeking to raise council tax as a means of income generation, Braintree continues to focus on achieving savings whilst investing in areas that matter to local people.

Key budget messages include:

• 1pc reduction in Council Tax and no increase planned for the following two years

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• No cuts in services

• No increase in car parking charges for the third year in succession and the continuation of the 10p after 3.00pm and all day Sunday initiative for a further year to encourage shoppers to use their local shops

• Increases in Council fees and charges (2.2pc) kept below the rate of inflation

• Investing £9.5 million in a new leisure centre in Witham

• Investing £1 million in a new gym at Braintree Swimming Centre and upgrading the gym at Braintree Leisure Centre, giving more opportunities for people to enjoy a healthy lifestyle

• £1.25 million investment in affordable housing

• Doubling the financial support to our Town and Parish Councils to almost £400,000

• £200,000 investment in economic growth and initiatives in our town centres

• Continuing to invest in our award winning parks and play areas to ensure children of all ages have somewhere they can play safely, refurbishing 2 more parks in 2013/14 at a cost of £100,000

• £100,000 investment in major infrastructure studies to push for delivery of the rail loop in Braintree and improvements to the A120

• Continuing to employ 3 ‘barrow beat’ operatives to maintain high levels of cleanliness in Braintree, Witham and Halstead town centres - £65,000

• £60,000 additional support to the Citizens Advice Bureau to help support families and individuals in need following welfare reforms

• To encourage people back to work the first £40 per week of earned income for Council Tax benefit claimants will be exempt

As part of a four-year savings programme, the council has already successfully delivered £1.695 million worth of savings this has been achieved by:

• New leisure management contract saving £950,000 per annum

• New ICT services contract saving £250,000 per annum

• Increased income from the letting of Mayland House, Witham - £450,000 per annum

• Increased income from the sale of recyclable materials - £160,000 per annum

Braintree District Council collects Council Tax on behalf of the District Council who receive (11pc), Essex County Council (73pc), Essex Police (9pc), Essex Fire Authority (5pc) and parish and town councils (2pc).