Epping District Council agrees council tax increase

Council tax in Epping Forest district will be rising by £4.69 from April – but the local council will be making redundancies in a bid to close its £4m budget gap.

Epping Forest District Council met lon Tuesday February 28 and approved the rise to £162.15 for Band D properties.

But the local authority will be going into consultation for redundancies, after the council experienced financial pressures as a result of the ongoing cost of living crisis. This comes after the council reported a gap in its finances in excess of £4m last year.

Senior members said the council had received a better than expected settlement from the government, which had helped it raise council tax by less than the maximum amount allowed without holding a referendum.

Finance portfolio holder Councillor John Philip (Con, Theydon Bois) said: “The good news is that after this budget, we will still be the lowest council tax authority in Essex.

“And why is that good news? That’s good news because it’s something for our residents. It puts as little pressure on their hard earned money as it possibly can at the moment.”

Additionally, £400,000 has been reserved as the council heads into securing a new waste contract. Cllr Philip also said there is money in the capital budget for a new vehicle depot in North Weald and a new Epping sports centre and swimming pool.

However, staffing has continued to be a major cost to the council, at approximately £28m. A number of jobs are being cut, some of which are vacant positions. Cllr Philip said the amount needed for salaries was more than could be achieved through income and financial work.

He said: “There is no option. We cannot go overdrawn as a council. So we have to make those difficult decision. That doesn’t mean we like to do them, I don’t think any of us like to do them. But its the only way that we can keep the council working.”

Councillor Jon Whitehouse (Lib Dem, Epping Hemnall) said: “I think we need to recognise that even if some staff have been shifted around, as opposed to made redundant, the fact that there are fewer staff to do the job means that some things won’t get done and there’s increased pressure on those that are left.”

Councillor Chris Pond (Loughton Residents Association, Loughton Broadway) said:  “It is a budget generally of pain, rather than of gain. And especially it’s of pain for those loyal officers at EFCD who are being made redundant.”

Essex County Council voted earlier this month to increase its share of council tax by £49.05 to £1,450.17 next year for a Band D property. Council tax paid to the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex has also increase, to £233.46 for the police authority and £80.28 for the fire and rescue authority.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter