County budget pledge

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Essex County Council has promised a “budget for all” – despite concerns that adult social care faces savings of more than £24million.

The council, which is set to increase its share of council tax by £50 on the average band D household, has proposed total savings of £58million – £24million of which are associated with adult social care.

Referring to council leader David Finch, Labour councillor Ivan Henderson asked: “How does he think those £58million of savings will impact on those groups who are suffering and we are seeing levels of deprivation go up across Essex?”

The council supports around 16,000 adults, of which about 10,000 are older people, over 4,000 are people with learning disabilities, 2,050 are people with physical or sensory impairments and 750 are people with mental health needs.

Included within the total net budget of £423million (total gross budget is £683.9million) are budget savings proposals of £24.5million (5.8 per cent of the total or 3.6 per cent of the gross budget) that need to be made in order to achieve financial sustainability and to accommodate demographic and inflationary pressures in 2020/21.

It is anticipated that changes to the way the council delivers its provision for learning disability will generate efficiencies of £17.7million, while changes to mental health provision will generate savings of £1million.

Technology and information advice and guidance changes will deliver a saving of £2.1million, while savings of £1.7million will be achieved through efficiencies in public health and a saving of  £1.2million will come from changes to older people provision.

Cllr Finch said: “We as an authority are very clear and there are numerous examples where we have done this – where we have looked at the service and have seen where we can reengineer, restructure so we can deliver the outcomes that are needed and that we can still reduce the cost to the authority.

“That is well established practice within this authority.

“We have over the last ten years saved over £820million, but in doing that over ten years we have had five years where we had zero council tax increase.

“This organisation is very clear and is very capable able of delivering savings.

“Of course in any programme of savings there will be risks that need to be evaluated.

“We know what we are doing, we know how we are going to do it.

“But there will always be some risk factor that needs to be considered.

“That is why we are confident that by delivering the savings we are putting in the programme we will still deliver what the residents of this county want.

“This will be a budget for all.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter