Tough budget plan reveals Southend council tax and parking charge hikes

Families in Southend face a 4.99 per cent council tax rise and a 10 per cent increase in parking charges as 25 jobs are axed as part of the “toughest budget in decades”.

Southend Council expects to save £2.6million from increasing fees, including parking charges which will go up 10 per cent in line with inflation.

The council also proposes charging non-residents more than residents for burial and cremation services, and increasing pier charges in what the authority calls “the toughest draft budget in a decade”.

Council tax payers are also looking at a 4.99 per cent increase in 2023/24. Pressures in adult social care will eat up 2 per cent of the rise which will mean a £1.32 a week increase for a Band C home.

Despite inflationary pressures from energy price increases and pay awards, the council has cut its projected £14.6million overspend at the beginning of the financial year to £7.3million and has set a balanced net base budget of £144m for 2023/24.

Some job cuts are proposed with 25.5 full time posts going to save £900,000 but the council says the majority of these are vacant posts which will not be filled.

Stephen George, Labour leader of the council, said: “This is a budget setting with no easy choices. We are having to take some really tough decisions whilst remaining committed to protecting the most vulnerable people in our city, which is where over 65 per cent of our budget goes.

“We know local people have been impacted by the cost-of-living crisis too and it is right that we continue to focus on protecting those areas. No councillor wants to raise council tax and fees and charges, or make savings, but councils are in the unenviable position of needing to do both.

“The Government expects us to raise council tax by 4.99 per cent and I am afraid that is what we must do. This will raise £4.5m for next year, but that won’t even cover our expected extra energy costs of £4.6m.”

Cllr Paul Collins, cabinet member for asset management and inward investment, said: “Huge cuts of over 90 per cent to local government finances over the last decade means that most of our funding for services now comes from council tax, business rates and other fees and charges, and that has undoubtedly had an impact on the services we can provide, at a time when pressure and demand on services continues to rise.

“We must therefore deliver savings and raise money, whilst protecting services for the vulnerable.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter