Brentwood Borough Council has approved its Budget for the year which includes no increase in council tax for the next tax year and no cuts to services. Government policy permits councils to increase council tax by 2% or £5 a year and the full Budget was approved at last night’s Ordinary Council meeting.
Brentwood Borough Council Leader, Cllr Chris Hossack said; “We now know that there is light at the end of the tunnel with a roadmap out of Lockdown thanks to the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday. This means our priority is to support a return to normality for our businesses, retailers, leisure industry, economy and our residents’ well being and so we have produced a Budget that is both recovery ready and forges a positive future for Brentwood.
We have taken the view that we should keep the financial burden on residents to a minimum, especially at this time. A combination of shrewd investment, maximising our assets, reducing costs and driving through efficient working practices means that the council can deliver a 0% council tax increase this year despite the pressures of the pandemic. It has been an extraordinary time and the council has been key to helping and supporting the community but it has also continued diligently with the many plans and goals to ensure our projects are delivered. This puts us in a good place to deliver a strong recovery at speed.
We have started our £7m scheme for King George’s Playing Fields with its new pavilion, splash pad and Changing Places facilities and look forward to the full reopening of the council’s Brentwood Leisure Centre. We have committed another £121,000 for Community Groups and charities and more funding for our community events which now look likely to take place properly later this year with the Lockdown easing. Our commitment to employment is boosted by £125,000 for new apprenticeships with the council and our retailers are being supported with a number of new schemes to help their recovery, including two now online platforms, click it local and a loyalty scheme to support the ‘buy local’ message.
Services from the council to the residents are improving thanks to a new website that will make it easier for residents to do their business with use online and simply whilst help will still be on hand for those using more traditional methods. We are also investing in staff to bolster our planning enforcement team and street care supervision.
We have further aligned our environmental commitment with the new development at Brookfield Close where the 61 new homes will take into account the latest means to produce sustainable zero carbon emissions. Dunton Hills Garden Village will help align these goals to futureproof our borough and its green areas for generations to come. An Environmental Strategy & Action Plan will be started and further investment in 20 more EV chargers has been earmarked together with £131,000 to reduce emissions with a new active travel scheme for Brentwood and Shenfield. There will be no annual salary rise for council officers and members will see a reduction in their allowances.
The cost of the Covid-19 crisis for the council in terms of actual cost and lost income has been put at £3.4m although a range of government grants have helped to alleviate some of the effect. However, with remote working we will look to ensure council building assets are used to maximum benefit for the borough as a whole. This time last year no one could have foreseen how much the world has changed as a result of Covid-19. This has put incredible stress on individuals, our community and the country as a whole but this Budget ensures the council is well positioned for the easing of Lockdown so we can all come out of this fast and effectively to get our businesses, economy and Brentwood in a position where the focus can be the future of the borough.”
The Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Brentwood Borough Council, Cllr Barry Aspinell, has issued his response here.