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Uttlesford sets out budget plans for 2024/25

Uttlesford District Council has put forward balanced but ambitious budget proposals for 2024/25 that maintain and improve levels of service by finding capacity to invest in some important priorities, whilst keeping the rise in Council Tax bills at a below-inflation 2.99%.

The draft budget has extra provision for more bin crews and lorries in the waste collection service, more money to tackle the climate crisis, ongoing support for vulnerable residents, more money for disabled facilities grants, and funding for some new social housing projects.

This comes amidst a backdrop of challenging financial pressures for local councils which are facing diminishing sources of income from central government at the same time as increasing demand for and cost of service delivery alongside high inflation.

Uttlesford is not immune to these pressures and identified a need to find £7.4m in net savings by 2027/28. The council is two years into a five-year change programme which will radically alter the way it operates over the coming years, and is looking at ways to maximise sustainable income streams and find service-level efficiencies. This programme is already contributing £2.1m of income and savings towards the target.

The balanced budget proposed for the next year financial year includes some increases to fees and charges, including a first rise in eight years in car park charges, as well as some use of financial reserves, as encouraged by central government. It is also proposing a 2.99% increase in council tax - the equivalent of an extra 10p per week for residents in a Band D property, bringing the amount charged to local residents by the district council up to about £3.50 per week for the full range of services. This modest increase will allow vital services provided by the district council to continue whilst also helping to support vulnerable residents. The plans include provision for more than double the amount spent this year in the cost-of-living council tax discount scheme to households who may be under the most pressure. This is in addition to the most generous local council tax support scheme in Essex for vulnerable residents and those on a low income.

The budget papers now published also include proposals to increase the rents for the authority's 2,800 council house tenants by the 7.7% allowed by the government, bringing average rents up to £125.74 per week, which remains substantially lower than private sector equivalent rents. The proposals include welcome provision of £3.7m on increasing the number of council homes, including £1.08m for a scheme in Takeley on the site of the former day centre and neighbouring garages, and a further £2.35m for other such new schemes (before projecting to ramp up substantially the following year to £8.5m).

Cllr Neil Hargreaves, Portfolio Holder for Finance and the Economy, said: "We know many of our residents are finding things tough in this cost-of-living crisis. I believe our budget strikes the right balance between being prudent and maintaining important services with being ambitious to improve outcomes for residents.

"Like all councils, Uttlesford is facing the serious challenge of the government imposing a second year of below inflation income restrictions, following on a decade of funding cuts. The budget and five-year forecast have been prepared on an appropriately prudent basis and assume continued government-imposed austerity and higher rates of interest than have been the norm. 

"Our change programme is gearing us up to be more sustainable and efficient in the coming years. But we cannot be complacent - the financial landscape is continually shifting and uncertain, and we must be ever smarter in how we work."

The budget papers, including the Medium Term Financial Strategy (which sets out how the council will manage its finances over the next five years), Commercial Strategy and the Housing Revenue Account budget was discussed at Scrutiny Committee on 13 February and will be considered by Cabinet this evening (20 February). It will be debated and voted on by all councillors at a meeting on 26 February.

The report and papers can be viewed at

20 February 2024

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