Council unveils toughest budget yet but vows to protect essential services and support vulnerable

Supporting residents and businesses through the cost-of-living crisis and protecting essential frontline services are at the centre of Braintree District Council’s budget plans for 2023/24.

Being able to fulfil a legal duty to set a balanced budget and protect essential services remains extremely challenging with increased cost pressures faced by the council, driven by inflation above 10%, rises in utility and fuel costs and interest rates, and greater demand on services. 

This year’s budget proposals balance the need to support residents and businesses through this difficult period, whilst also seeking to improve and invest in services, and at the same time ensure long-term financial stability of the council.

To help residents cope with the increased cost of living, it is proposed to use £1m of the council’s New Homes Bonus allocation to support communities by working with partners to provide food security, helping the most vulnerable through activities of existing community groups and organisations, and enable physical and emotional health and wellbeing. This supports the investment already committed through its share of the UK Shared and Rural Prosperity Funds.

The budget plans underline the council’s ongoing commitment to invest in priority services, including litter-picking and street cleansing of the A12, continuing the Councillor Community Grant scheme to fund community group activities and projects across the district, boosting economic growth projects in Witham, and investment into sports and recreation, carbon reduction, car park and play area and open spaces improvements.


Driving the growth of businesses and high-quality jobs in the district, providing business support programmes and zero carbon initiatives will continue to be key priorities, supporting the council’s ambitions in its new Economic Growth Strategy. Investment is also proposed to help us work with stakeholders and partners to deliver housing priorities identified by residents through its Healthy Housing Strategy.

Braintree District Council has a strong history of sound financial management and achieving savings and efficiencies whilst protecting frontline services. By scrutinising spending and reviewing carefully where the council charges for services, it has been able to identify over £1m of savings and additional income. Where possible, the council has tried to avoid impacting key services, however given the scale of the challenge facing the council, inevitably there has had to be some difficult choices made in the budget.

It is proposed to recommend to Full Council a Council Tax increase of 2.5 per cent for 2023/24, an increase of £4.68 for the year or 9p per week based on an average Band D property*. Additional support will be available for those who need it most and are facing exceptional financial difficulties*.

Recognising the significant financial challenges faced by the Council, the budget reaffirms a commitment to introduce a charge for the green waste collections by Spring 2024* for residents who choose to opt in for the service. If approved, this would be over a 12-month period unlike the current service that stops during the winter months. Proposals also include increases to car parking tariffs. Further detail on these proposals will be considered at a Cabinet meeting on 13 March 2023.

Cllr Graham Butland, Leader of Braintree District Council, said: “Spiralling inflation and years of government underfunding alongside extra demand on services puts councils against a backdrop of financial challenges. This means we are having to make some difficult budget decisions to stabilise our financial position, whilst ensuring we protect essential services our residents and businesses rely on.

“Part of this means having to increase council tax but we’ve worked hard to ensure this is as low as possible as we know times are tough for everyone. We want to ensure our focus is on helping those most at risk from the cost-of-living crisis, as well as ensuring we continue to offer and spend money on the services that matter most to our residents, businesses, and communities.”

Cllr John McKee, Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Transformation at Braintree District Council, said: “Like many local authorities, this is the toughest budget we’ve ever faced. With council finances under more pressure than ever, coupled with extra demand on core services, it is essential for our budget strategy to consider changes to the way some services are delivered so that we can continue to prioritise vital services and minimise impact on residents.

“We have looked at every possible option to find savings which we’ve achieved through planned efficiencies and maximising income, but councils, just like any business or family, are also affected by inflation as well as price rises for goods and services and more people need our services.

“I am grateful we have a strong track record of good financial management which has left us in a better position than many councils, however the financial situation will continue to be a challenge as we project an estimated £2m budget gap to be addressed by 2026/27. In order to deliver for residents and communities, we will need to continue making savings in future years and transform how the council works so we can continue to balance the books.”

The draft budget will be considered by the council’s Performance Management Scrutiny committee on 1st February, Cabinet on 6th February, with the final budget to be discussed and approved at Full Council on Monday 20th February 2023.

The Performance Management Scrutiny Committee papers can be found here.

Published: 27th January 2023