THURROCK Council will be asked to approve what is expected to be the lowest council tax in Essex when it meets on Wednesday (27 February).
The council’s cabinet was discussing the budget proposals on Wednesday (13 February) evening where Council Leader, Cllr John Kent, said: “I am recommending Thurrock raise its council tax by just under two per cent this year – that’s about 34p a week for the average household, and around £1 million in total, or around £1 million less we have to cut from our services.
“Despite this Thurrock’s residents should still have the lowest council tax bill in Essex and one the lowest in the country.”
Cllr Kent said: “Our government grant is being cut by £12 million and we are facing ever-growing calls on our children and adult care services.
“We are not alone in these difficulties. Every council in the land is struggling to cope with the twin pressures of increasing demand and reduced funding. Some, I have to say, are coping better than others.
“Here in Thurrock we have worked very hard to create a budget that means our front line services – the services people need to live normal lives, social services and waste collection, street repairs and street lighting for example – have been affected as little as possible.
“But I am afraid most have been affected to one degree or another. Over the past three years the council has made savings of over £30 million and over the next two years it is looking at having to do the same all over again.
“We have made clear that protecting front line services and the borough’s vulnerable people is our main aim, along with providing as effective and efficient services as possible.
“So we will be finding additional money for care for the elderly and for child social care.
“We are not proposing to close any library, to cut street cleaning or to move to fortnightly bin collections.
“On top of that we’re doing all we can to bolster and boost local business – large and small – encourage job creation and the building of new homes along with the roads, schools, shops and health facilities that go alongside them.”
Cllr Kent said: “This has been the most thorough budget setting process we have ever seen in Thurrock.
“We have examined – in detail – each service we provide to ensure we deliver good value for the tax payer’s pound.
“Our proposals have been taken through overview and scrutiny (their comments and recommendations are here) and before council decides on 27 February we will have consulted with both residents and businesses.”
He added: “I must applaud the Conservative Group’s approach to this year’s budget. They have brought forward their proposals through the scrutiny process and they are here this evening for our comment.
“There are some proposals I think we will be able to welcome, some we will need to explore a little further as well as some we would not be able to support.
“Finally, although these proposals will deliver a balanced budget for the next two years, we know that there will be further deep cuts to our funding to come after that.
“We must use the next two years to consider carefully what, and how, we expect the council to deliver in the future. We need to use the time to fully explore new ways of delivering public services in Thurrock.
“It has been a difficult year on top of two earlier difficult years – and we’re looking at more difficult years to come. Simply put, that’s where we are, we have to accept that and make the best of it and I believe that is exactly what Thurrock Council is doing.”