Essex County Council agrees to council tax hike

Coins and a calculator

Essex County Council has approved a council tax hike, which comes into force in April - Credit: PEXELS

Households across Essex will be charged around £60 more for council tax from April, county councillors have confirmed.

The rise was agreed at a meeting on Thursday, February 10, and means that Band D (average band) households will see their bills increase from £1,340.91 to £1,401.12 from April 2022.

But Essex County Council has been accused of ignoring its own advice from last year when former leader David Finch decided not to increase fees, arguing it would be "too hard on residents".

At the February 10 meeting, ECC set out several areas which would receive significant additional investment, including a £1.3 billion capital programme across the next four years.

The council has also committed to spend £200 million over the next four years to support climate action and its net-zero ambitions, an additional £10 million on skills and economic growth, and £2 million on infrastructure and a new pothole fund.

There is also a £1.5 million fund for the heritage and culture sector and £1 million for Levelling Up in Essex, plus an extension to a £750,000 localities fund to support district-level Levelling Up priorities and the continuation of a £500,000 fund to prevent Essex children from being targeted by gangs.

Labour councillor Aidan McGurran, for Pitsea, quoted the former leader at the meeting.

He said: "It's not right to hit people with council tax increases when many are facing one of the worst times of hardship because of the pandemic."

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He said with inflation potentially rising above 7%, higher energy prices and National Insurance tax rises, households are set to be around £2,000 a year worse off.

Cllr McGurran said that the council should dip into its reserves.

He said: "The reality is that as Conservatives, you won't hit people's pockets unnecessarily in an election year.

"Three and a bit years out, you have no problems at all."

Council leader Kevin Bentley said: "We only ask for money when we need it.

"It has nothing to do with elections.

"It has got to do with how the balance of the books are done and the priorities of the time."