Braintree District Council budget report published

Braintree District Council budget report published

A number of new capital projects have been announced

Braintree District Council has published its proposed budget for the financial year ahead which will see significant investment into the district while also protecting frontline services.

The total estimated spend on capital projects is £42.66 million for projects such as the Manor Street redevelopment, Horizon 120 and I-Construct.

The investment is all part of the Council’s Health, Homes, Journeys and Jobs agenda and will unlock more opportunities for its residents and businesses.

Despite receiving £6.7 million less from central government, the Council has balanced its budget by bringing in income - largely through careful financial management and investments including the buying of commercial buildings to rent out, and by reducing costs without impacting on the services received by residents.*

A number of new capital projects have also been announced including:

  • Refurbishments to play areas in Albert Moss Recreational Gardens in Rivenhall, Bramble Road in Witham, Braintree and Bocking Public Gardens in Braintree and Notley Community Hall in Notley Green.
  • Protection of a number of open spaces in Braintree and Witham from unauthorised encampments.
  • The creation of a footpath linking Albert Moss car park to the Village Hall in Rivenhall and playing fields which will make it much improved and more accessible for all.
  • Resurfacing of the artificial grass pitch and improvements to the athletic track at Braintree Sports & Health Club. This will make sure that clubs that use the facilities can continue to compete regionally. The pitch and the track are regularly used for schools district sports days as well as regional athletic and football competitions.
  • Creation of gardens of remembrance within some of Braintree District Council’s cemeteries.
  • CCTV upgrades in Braintree and Halstead towns.
  • Pedestrianisation of Braintree Town Centre to create a safe, flexible and social space which will draw people in and keep them entertained for longer generating more trade for shops and businesses. It will also unlock much-needed improvements to the condition of the current road and pavements.
  • A £58,000 investment in the much-loved grade 1 listed Bocking Windmill over the next six years for much needed repairs to the steps, sails, windows and body of the mill.**

Cllr Graham Butland, Leader of Braintree District Council, said: “We’re investing in what matters to our residents: health and homes, journeys and jobs. From smaller community projects such as improving our play areas and sports facilities which will mean our young people can get out away from screens, keep active and find new talents.... but we’re also taking on some of the big issues such as climate change, being a place where innovative businesses can thrive and homes for our young people.”

Like most councils, Braintree District Council has declared a climate emergency. A climate change working group has been set up and a full action plan will be presented to the Council’s Cabinet meeting in September 2020. Braintree District Council has already undertaken a number of important changes to improve its impact on the environment and has halved its carbon emissions by 50 per cent since 2006. As an example, it has invested £640,000 in solar panels on Council properties reducing energy costs and producing combined income and savings of £100,000 each year. Other achievements can be viewed here***.

Braintree District Council, like all councils, has also had to deal with increases in demand on services as well as new responsibilities placed on local authorities by Central Government. Council budgets across the country have also been impacted by significant increases in the amount it costs to collect and dispose of residents’ waste.

Councillors will consider a proposed increase in council tax of 2.75 per cent. This works out as a nine pence per week increase for an average (Band D) household. Proposals to balance the budget also include a small increase in fees and charges to help pay for the costs of some services without putting the burden on council tax payers. Car parking charges are frozen.****

Cllr David Bebb, Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance Management, said: “Despite having millions less coming in from government grants, we have been forward thinking and innovative. We are a low tax authority and our proposed council tax precept will mean we have the fourth lowest council tax in Essex. We’re investing in the things that matter to our residents and we’re keeping the quality of our services high. Our satisfaction rates remain higher than the national average and we have recently been awarded the Customer Service Excellence Standard for the fifth year.” 

The draft budget was considered at the Council’s Performance Management Board on Wednesday, January 29, it will be considered by the Council’s Cabinet on Monday 10th February. The final budget will be discussed at Full Council on Monday 17th February.

Notes to editors:

  • Details of the budget reports are available to view online.
     
  • *Over the last decade the Council has had to address both a reduction in Government Grant of £6.7million and an increase in the cost of providing services of £2.2million. This challenge has been achieved by increased income of £5.9million, retaining a proportion of the growth in business rates of £1.7million and the balance of £1.3million being met from council taxpayers.
     
  • ****It is proposed that Braintree District Council’s council tax requirement is increased by £4.95 (2.75 per cent) to £184.68 per annum (at Band D) for 2020/21. This equates to a council tax charge, for a Band D property, for the provision of Braintree District Council’s services of £3.55 per week; an increase of approximately 9p per week. In setting the level of council tax Braintree District Council is mindful of the financial challenges over the next four years. This proposed council tax of £184.68, for a Band D property, will continue to mean the Council has the fourth lowest council tax in Essex. Over the last decade the level of increase has been less than half of the increase in the Retail Prices Index.
     
  • Business Rates Relief - Braintree District Council is proposing to increase the amount of business rate relief available to eligible retailers, pubs and restaurants from one-third to 50 per cent in accordance with Government guidance for 2020/21. Braintree District Council already offers a number of different business rate relief schemes which businesses can access by calling the business rates team. Business rates are set by central government.
     
  • Bringing empty homes into use - The budget report details how Braintree District Council hopes to bring more empty homes back into use. Owners who leave homes empty for more than 2 years already have to pay an additional council tax of 100 per cent but it is proposed to increase it further. People who leave homes empty for more than five years will be subject to an extra 200 per cent council tax from April 2020. From April 2021 people who leave homes empty for more than 10 years will have to pay an extra 300 per cent council tax. More than 200 homes in the Braintree District have been left empty for more than two years. As an incentive, the owners will be entitled to a refund of the additional council tax for the previous 12 months if they bring their homes back into use. 
     
  • ** The windmill is owned by Braintree District Council and it is cared for by the volunteer group Friends of Bocking Windmill. The windmill opens its doors to the public for a number of days each year throughout the summer months. If residents are interested in becoming a volunteer at the windmill they should please email Customer.Services@braintree.gov.uk.
     
  • The Council’s Corporate Strategy 2020-2024 which will set out the Council’s key priorities over the next four years will be published in April 2020.
     
  • The budget proposals also includes a strengthening of Braintree District Council’s planning enforcement, landscape services and health and community services teams.
     
  • Discussions are underway with Essex County Council and other Essex authorities with the hope to introduce a council tax exemption for young people who leave care. This is something Braintree District Council is keen to support and subject to agreement across Essex will seek to introduce at the earliest opportunity. 
     
  • ***In July 2019, Braintree District Council declared a climate emergency and stated its aim to make its activities, as far as possible, carbon neutral by 2030. The Council has already achieved the following:
  • Saved 858 tonnes of CO2 in business travel since 2015.
  • Reduced electricity use, saving 660 tonnes of CO2 since 2005.
  • Reduced gas consumption, saving 1252 tonnes of CO2 since 2005.
  • Enabled more than 150,000 residents to save £705,000 over the last 5 years through its energy switching scheme - aiming to reduce fuel poverty.
  • Encouraged its residents to reduce, reuse and recycle their waste through its Green Heart programme.
  • Supported residents to install more than 8,700 energy saving measures since 2014 directly resulting in the saving of over 1000 tonnes of carbon emissions.