Frontline services have been protected at Tendring District Council (TDC) after a balanced budget for 2018/19 was passed this week, despite cuts in Government funding.
Spending plans include £2million for garden communities, £1m for Harwich public realm works, £500,000 for housing in Jaywick Sands, £1.5m for office transformation, and more than £2m on regeneration and economic development projects.
The residents’ free parking scheme has also been made a regular part of the budget, rather than being decided upon on a year-by-year basis.
The Council also set aside £1.5m towards recharging the new beaches from Clacton to Holland-on-Sea, £250,000 for repairs to the Milton Road car park in Dovercourt, and £180,000 for work on Clacton’s multi-storey car park.
Cllr Neil Stock, Council leader, said all of these schemes were not promises of future funding but were “cash-backed”.
“About nine to ten months ago, when we started to plan this budget, we were presented with a savings target of £3.4m over two years,” he said.
“In the context of protecting frontline services we had a choice – accept what felt like a fait accompli or to think quite differently. I am glad we were brave enough to choose the latter as otherwise the budget would have reflected the inevitable reduction in services.
“I am proud to say there are no service reductions within the budget in front of us, something many councils are unlikely to be able to say this year.”
Cllr Stock also called on Government to give local authorities more independence to manage their finances.
“If the Government wants us to be financially self-sufficient – and by effectively scrapping the Revenue Support Grant we have to assume they do – then they should allow us to do just that,” he added.
“Parliament needs to remove the legislative shackles which currently forbid us from being entrepreneurial or innovative and restrict how we can operate. We have in this country one of the most centralised systems of government anywhere in the world and all I am proposing is that Westminster just needs to trust local councils to know what is best and to do what is right in their own local area.”
Cllr Stock also confirmed £100,000 from the Fit for Purpose budget would be moved to the Big Society Fund, a cash pot set up to give grants to community groups.
The budget includes a £5 increase in the TDC portion of council tax for a Band D home, a 3.17% rise.
Full council passed the budget on Tuesday, February 6.