Efforts to maintain the lowest possible level of Council Tax were in evidence when Epping Forest District Council met on Thursday (25 February) to set the new charge for 2021/22.
Epping Forest District Council which also collects Council Tax on behalf of other councils, the police and fire services, has frozen its own share again. The Council has only increased the district share of Council Tax once since 2010.
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Council Tax freeze
Councillors welcomed the District Council’s own budget and Council Tax freeze before approving the precepts for collection.
The average Band D Council Tax precepts in 2021/22 will be:
- Epping Forest District Council – £152.46 (no change)
- Parish Councils (averaged*) – £69.68 (6p increase)
- Essex County Council – £1,340.91 (£19.80 increase)
- Essex Police Fire and Crime Commissioner – £208.53 (£9.90 increase)
- Essex County Fire and Rescue Service – £73.89 (no increase)
Total Band D Average – £1,845.47 (£29.76 increase)
*Parish and Town council charges vary between parishes and are shown as average values in the list above for illustration purposes
District Council Budget
Councillor John Philip’s Finance Portfolio Holder report outlined both summary expenditure and details in a series of appendices.
- Net General Fund expenditure of £16.69 million including £1.35 million from reserves
- Council Tax
- Housing Revenue Account net income of £8.47 million and maintaining a minimum contingency balance of £2 million in the HRA reserve.
- General fund capital investment of £94.82 million over 5 years.
- Housing capital programme of £172.15 million over five years.
- The budget also includes a 1.5% rent increase for council dwellings and a freeze in pay and display parking charges.
A Covid Budget for recovery
Councillor Philip set out a budget to protect front line services and demonstrate the benefits of investment. Reinforcing the point that public money belongs to residents, Councillor Philip also emphasised the benefit of investment for the future. Previous investments such as the construction of the Epping Forest Retail Park are now helping to fund public services as well as maintain low Council Tax levels.
High street recovery
Commercial developments such as the redevelopment of Cartersfield industrial units, construction of a new leisure centre for Epping, and investment in various projects through Qualis will make significant contributions to the district’s emergence from the Covid pandemic. The freeze on Pay and Display parking charges will continue to support high street recovery.
Council house building
Council house building investment of more than £90 million continues. Epping Forest District Council was one of the first councils to restart a house building programme. Councillor Philip said he was willing to spend money for the benefit of residents, preparing the council for the future and improving the district for all to live in – all within the budget envelope.
Recovery from pandemic
Council Leader Chris Whitbread congratulated Councillor Philip and his team. He said:
To deliver a frozen Council Tax this year was very difficult, but the right thing to do.
Having heard so much about the improvements to come, Councillor Whitbread was particularly delighted with the ‘house building programme for the district’s young people’. But ‘most importantly the budget was about recovery from the pandemic and bringing our local economy back to life’.
Epping Forest District Council is now believed to have the lowest Council Tax in Essex ‘while protecting services and doing the right thing by our residents of Epping Forest’.
Councillors also froze their own allowances for a further year.
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