Council tax has gone up after Uttlesford District Council agreed to hike its share of the levy by the maximum amount allowed.

Residents will pay £171.61 a year for a band D property, bringing the expected amount of money raised in 2023-2024 to £6,694,027.

Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) councillors, who form the administration, said at a budget meeting on February 21 that the authority’s investments meant it was in a better position than other Essex councils, many of which are experiencing massive pressures on their finances.

Portfolio holder for finance and budget Neil Hargreaves (R4U, Newport) said at the meeting: "This contrasts to presentations to members in November, which headlined 60 councils across the country may run out cash in this coming financial year if they did not make large cuts.

Dunmow Broadcast: Cllr Neil HargreavesCllr Neil Hargreaves (Image: Uttlesford District Council)

"Uttlesford is not in that position, and the reason is that we’ve made £16 million of revenue from commercial investments, which means we’ve not been raiding reserves to pay running costs."

But opposition councillors warned the authority may have to sell some of its assets to avoid eating into reserves, and criticised the budget for not including money lost as a result of the botched Stansted Airport refusal and ongoing delays the council’s local plan.

Councillor Barbara Light (Lib Dem and Green Alliance, Saffron Walden Audley) said: "I would suggest that it is not what is in this budget that would give any idea as to the state of this council, it is in fact what has been cunningly left out, or hidden deep in the many pages."


Councillor Vere Isham (Lib Dem and Green Alliance, Takeley) also expressed concern there was no reference to the fact the council’s accounts have not been externally audited, due to a previous police investigation into the council.

Cllr Hargreaves said these were not budget matters and had been discussed in council scrutiny meetings.

Conservative group leader George Smith (The Sampfords) said: "What concerns me most about this budget and messaging is that it’s been said it’s a robust financial position. We’re really not. We’re kicking the can down the road.

Dunmow Broadcast: Cllr George SmithCllr George Smith (Image: Essex Police)

"The medium term financial strategy demonstrates that unless we are able to sell our commercial assets and get the return that we need our reserves will be gone by 2025."

The council also voted down an opposition motion to freeze council tax for bands A-C, to help the "just about managing households" at an estimated cost of £44,000.

This comes after Essex County Council voted earlier this month to increase its share of council tax by £49.05 next year for a Band D property.

Earlier this week, the Conservative group called for R4U to "come clean" on the budget plans, warning that its medium term financial strategy would cause the council problems further down the line.

Meanwhile R4U accused the Conservatives of misleading the public by blaming the party for issues that were actually under county council jurisdiction, and added that "readers should beware of their 'end is nigh' faux horror headlines".