'Tough but manageable' financial challenges are predicted for Uttlesford District Council over the next few years as it responds to the impacts of the economic crisis.

In February this year, the council announced a 2022/23 budget alongside a medium-term financial strategy, that set out how it would need to make between £3.5 to £4 million savings over the next five years - based on assumptions and forecasting at the time.

Since then, the national financial picture has changed dramatically, and, like all local councils, Uttlesford's budgets are coming under increasing strain.

In its half-year predictions, based on current forecasts, the council anticipates it will have to make 20 to 25 per cent net reductions in spending - up to £5 million - by 2027.

These predictions already take into account immediate tighter spending controls across all departments, and a review of existing budgets to see where further savings and efficiencies can be made.

Over the coming weeks and months, an option is being developed for the sale of one or more of the council's commercial assets, which could potentially bring down the five-year savings target from £5 million to £3 million.

The increased pressures are in part caused by rising inflation rates and additional utility costs, as well as changes to government policy which risk substantially reducing income, such as business rates.

Cllr Petrina Lees, leader of the council, said: "Uttlesford is not unique in this – all councils are facing tough financial pressures and we have to keep in mind that some have budget deficits running into hundreds of millions of pounds.

"By comparison, we are better placed than many councils to weather the storm, thanks to good financial management and our excellent commercial asset portfolio.

"We will continue to work hard to support our most vulnerable residents and will be thinking very carefully over the coming months about how we address the scale of the challenge ahead in ways that protect vital services as a priority."

A report on the half-year outturn on this year's budget will be discussed at a meeting of the council's cabinet on Thursday (December 1).