Essex County Council set to freeze its council tax for the third successive year

ESSEX County Council is expected to freeze its share of council tax for a third successive year.

The cap was agreed by the authority’s cabinet today (Tuesday), and the recommendations will now be discussed at Full Council on February 5.

If agreed it would mean the county council share of the Band D council tax would remain at £1,086.75.

Cllr David Finch, deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: “Like most councils we are receiving less government funding this year compared to last year. We do not know the full impact yet as the complex nature of the new government funding approach means we are still waiting on clarification on some of the final figures.

“Despite this I am delighted we have been able to develop recommendations which - while identifying savings - continue to ensure we provide quality, value for money services, make investments in key areas, and deliver a freeze in our share of the council tax for the third successive year.

“This has not been easy, and we are under no illusions that like every other part of the public sector we are going continue to face greater demand for our services with an ever decreasing level of funding to help provide them.

“However, we are already on course to make over £360 million through our first phase of transforming the way we deliver our services and have outlined plans to save an additional £200 million by 2017. This, coupled with our recommendations today, will continue to put us in a good position to meet our future challenges.”

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Despite the need to save £55 million of “savings and efficiencies”, the council says it would look to:

• invest almost £18 million in providing additional school places

• invest around £65 million in maintaining and enhancing over 8,500 miles of roads and footpaths

• increase funding for Home to School Transport by £945,000

• invest £7.7 million to improve broadband connectivity

• set aside £1.5 million to support economic growth and job creation

• invest £2 million on providing accommodation for vulnerable people

• ensure that all library services remain open

• work with partners to further develop its Early Years Strategy

• improve schools so that all are classified as at least good by inspectors

The council says it is currently on course to make over £360 million in savings and efficiencies by March, while a new programme to transform its service provision launched last year aims to save approximately £200 million by 2017.