Thurrock draft budget attempts to address overspend

Council bills in Thurrock are set to rise by almost 3 per cent to fund increases in the cost of children’s and adult social care.

The council’s draft budget includes a 1.99 per cent rise in council tax which will be dedicated entirely to children’s services, providing a boost to the financially strained department. There will also be a 1 per cent increase in the adult social care precept, where difficulties with budget overspends also continue.

Barry Johnson, councillor responsible for education and children’s social care, said: “There is a continuous overspend in this area because of the ridiculous cost of placing children in the care they need. If the draft budget is passed it will give us a head start with funding. To raise council tax by 1.9 per cent is a sensible way of doing this. We do know it’s going to be needed.

“The cost of putting a child with special needs into the right care costs between £20,000 and £30,000 a week. I think we have to start looking at the entrepreneurial side of the people running these places and whether it can be capped.”

Mr Johnson added: “We are also trying to open special places in Thurrock. That’s not something we can do overnight but it is on our agenda.”

The council was looking at final deficit of £3.2million but the new council tax levy brings that down to £2.5million. The draft budget proposes to cover this with money from capital receipts and reserves in order to provide a balanced budget.

For the average Band D property, currently paying £1,681 a year, this will cost households an extra £40.

Shane Hebb, councillor responsible for finance, said: “It is important that extra money is provided for key services which deal with the well-being of the borough’s most vulnerable children and adults. Thurrock – like all councils – continues to face pressures in social care services following Covid.

“The cabinet has always said that tax will never be a single default approach – by reshaping services to better target outcomes for residents, managing recruitment and looking at how we can deliver services differently while ensuring minimal impacts on residents and focusing on only the most important capital projects we have closed the budget gap we were facing next year.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter