A set of proposals to improve services across Essex is being tabled this Thursday (9th February) by Essex County Council Liberal Democrats. Fixing potholes for an extra £9 a year in Council Tax (rather than risk having to spend £200+ on new car tyres or suspension) is a key proposal, as well as helping young people.
The Lib Dem plans include an extra £21.6 million to be invested in:
# Supporting the mental health needs of children and young people: £3m extra per year to Children and Families. (The huge increase in numbers of young people requiring advice and treatment for mental health issues due to Coronavirus is well documented. Current demand is not being met fast enough as shown by waiting times.)
£1m of this additional funding is to enable more vital work with children and young people with mental health issues, in the knowledge that any such measures may reduce the risk of harm and suicide prevention, and benefit the NHS. We will promote the benefits of investing in match-funding this significant additional expenditure with the Integrated Care Systems.
# Help to achieve stable, resilient and safe family environments, with £1m extra in the Family Innovation Fund, working with children and young people to deliver services including coaching, mediation, conflict resolution and counselling through 1:1, group and family/parent/couples work.
# Support for special needs, with a further £1m invested in Essex Short Breaks, a service that provides clubs and activities for young people with SEND and also offers parents and carers of children and young people with special educational needs and/or disability a break from their additional caring responsibilities which enables them to maintain their ability to support their children and manage work and family life balance.
# Increase sport and activity, £3m to Active Essex for extending school and club capacity and resource in the community.
# Enhance the provision of Youth Service projects with £1.6m in 2023/24 and £1m in future years to support mentoring and respite for young carers, school lunchtime clubs/drop in sessions run by youth workers and outreach work, including detached working.
# Additional social care capacity - increase the adult social care base budget by £1.5m a year to address care and support for older people, specifically to invest in additional social care bed capacity. In addition, £1.5m per annum to be invested into enhancement of the Discharge Fund which, through agreement with Better Care Fund partners, would further support additional bed capacity and enhance outcomes by expediting hospital discharges.
# Protect the environment and act on the Climate Emergency investing a further £0.5m annually into the Essex Forest Initiative to enhance urban tree planting and "tiny forest" initiative.
# Investing in our infrastructure and quality of life - a one off increase of £5m in the Highways Capital programme provision for Road Maintenance to double footway maintenance spend, as the most neglected and in need of repair area of highways. And as a contribution to the wider aims of Active Travel, by an additional one off capital investment investment of £2m.
# Support priority highways schemes in local areas. with an additional £2m invested to Local Highways Panels.
# New cycling and walking infrastructure with an increase in capital investment of £750,000 improving ECC's prospects of attracting match and grant funding from Government and other partners, such as the NHS.
# An increase in Electric Vehicle infrastructure of £250,000 in addition to the existing capital budget, as a contribution to our efforts to repond to the Climate Emergency and to improve air quality across Essex.
# Further protect low income families from the impacts of the increases in Council Tax, with £300,000 a year extra to double ECC's investment into the district-led hardship scheme.
Cost and Use of Reserves
The measures contained within this proposal will see an increase of £11.6m to the 2023/24 budget (some 9%) and are funded in full by increasing the rise in Council Tax from 3.5% to 5%. One off capital investments will be funded through £10m of borrowing and there will be no draw on unrestricted reserves. A total of £21.6m to be made available in 2023/24.
Note: revenue budget of £152k in 23/24 and £190k in 24/25 built into MTRS
There is a further £61k pa in 23/24 and 24/25 capital programme, externally funded in respect of the Local Authority Treescape Fund.