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Uttlesford approves budget for 2024/25

Uttlesford District Council has set a budget for 2024/25 to maintain levels of service, substantially boost provision for refuse collections and protect residents on low incomes, whilst keeping the rise in council tax bills at a below-inflation 2.99%.

The budget, approved by councillors at a meeting on Monday (26 February), has extra provision for more bin crews and three new lorries in the waste collection service - a total investment of over £1m. The council will continue to fund tackling the climate crisis, funding local voluntary organisations and building new council homes.

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, in a very cautious budget, has had to plan for a further £7m cut in government-controlled funding by 2027/28. The council is two years into a five-year change programme under the umbrella title of 'Blueprint' 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 and is ahead of schedule towards a £7m target.

The balanced budget for the next financial year includes some increases to fees and charges, including a first rise in eight years in car park charges, as well as a small use of financial reserve savings, as encouraged by central government. Following a year which is predicted to end £1.3m better than budgeted, total usable reserves stand at £22m and the reserves available for balancing have risen by £2m to £8m.

The 2.99% increase in council tax is 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. This modest increase will allow vital services provided by the district council to continue whilst also helping to support the most generous local council tax support scheme in Essex for vulnerable residents and those on a low income.

Rents for the authority's 2,800 council house tenants will increase by 7.7%, bringing average rents up to £125.74 per week which remains substantially lower than private sector equivalent rents. There is 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 new schemes.

The council's commercial assets portfolio is valued at a £20m more than was paid for it, and despite interest rate rises, remains profitable. As the government has mandated that councils must reduce related borrowings to zero, the council is making large borrowing reductions, which in the coming year will be part paid out of the general fund. However, the quality of the portfolio income is such that in future years all payments will be covered and the net contribution for supporting council services will rise to over £3m a year.

Residents can find out more about the budget, including the supporting strategies and information about council tax, at:

27 February 2024

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