The Council’s revenue budget for 2020/21 and capital budget up to 2024/25 has been approved, offering more care, more council housing, more road repairs and more trees and greenery.
The budget was approved at a meeting of Full Council last night (Thursday 20th February).
The budget will see an extra £5.7m invested into children’s and adult social care, including £2.4m to cover some of the additional costs of placing more children into care, £400,000 to attract 16 new foster carers, and nearly £500,000 to support the elderly.
£9.5m will be used to buy more private housing to turn into council homes to follow the £5.3m already spent buying over twenty local homes this year, and £14.5m budgeted to continue with the council’s housebuilding programme.
£2.7m of new capital funding will be spent on local roads and pavements, and a number of one-off investments will support projects including winter and summer planning, improved environmental and anti-social behaviour enforcement and a project to tackle social isolation with the community and voluntary sector.
An extra £1m over the next five years will also be spent on further tree planting and their maintenance, and 2,500 new shrubs will be planted across the Borough in 2020/21.
Council tax will rise by 1.99% with a further 2% for adult social care. This will mean a rise of 73p for a Band A home, 82p a week for Band B, 94p for Band C and £1.06 for Band D.
Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council, says: “This is balanced, ambitious and exciting budget for the residents of Southend-on-Sea that protects and supports the most vulnerable in our Borough and delivers for each and every member of our community too.
“This is no mean feat considering continued central Government cuts over the past ten years and with demands on our services ever-increasing. As most councils have seen across the county, we have seen a huge increase in the costs associated with looked-after children, and continued pressure on our adult social care budget.”
For the first time since 2011, the main grant the council receives will not be reduced and is expected to rise by £100,000 in line with the consumer price index (2.1%). However, since 2011, this grant has reduced by 93% from £64m to just over £6m.
Cllr Gilbert continues: “Whilst one-off boosts and grants are welcomed, they do not help with long-term planning and that is why we have to propose raising council tax to ensure that we can keep providing children’s and adult services, not just for the next financial year, but for the next five years and beyond.
“We are investing in our priorities around the environment, housing, roads, pavements and more, and we want to see a Borough where everyone has a safe, decent, affordable home that meets their needs. I am therefore very pleased this budget has been approved and we can continue to get on with the job of delivering for local people.”