COUNCIL bosses are preparing to splash the cash and spend tens of millions of pounds in the next 12 months to boost the district.

An estimated £42.66m will be spent by Braintree Council on capital projects in the new year financial year in April.

Much of the money will go towards the cost of the Manor Street development in Braintree, as well as the new business park at Great Notley, Horizon 120.

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The major investment forms part of the council’s health, homes, journeys and jobs agenda which aims to 'unlock' more opportunities for residents and businesses.

Money will be spent on other projects such as the new technology centre, I-Construct, which is set to be built in Springwood Drive, Braintree, and the pedestrianisation of Braintree High Street.

Around £58,000 has been set aside for the refurbishment of the grade I listed Bocking Windmill.

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The cash will be handed out over a six-year period and be used to repair steps, sails, windows and the body of the mill.

Council leader Graham Butland said: "We’re investing in what matters to our residents: health and homes, journeys and jobs.

"From smaller community projects such as improving our play areas and sports facilities which will mean our young people can get out away from screens, keep active and find new talents.... but we’re also taking on some of the big issues such as climate change, being a place where innovative businesses can thrive and homes for our young people."

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The council says the cost of the investment will be covered by income generated from commercial projects. Council tax will also be increased to generate money.

A spokesman added: "Despite receiving £6.7 million less from central government, the council has balanced its budget by bringing in income - largely through careful financial management and investments including the buying of commercial buildings to rent out, and by reducing costs without impacting on the services received by residents."

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New projects have also been announced as part of the investment. These include:

• Refurbishments to play areas in Albert Moss Recreational Gardens in Rivenhall, Bramble Road in Witham, Braintree and Bocking Public Gardens in Braintree and Notley Community Hall in Notley Green.

• Protection of a number of open spaces in Braintree and Witham from unauthorised encampments.

• The creation of a footpath linking Albert Moss car park to the Village Hall in Rivenhall and playing fields which will make it much improved and more accessible for all.

• Resurfacing of the artificial grass pitch and improvements to the athletic track at Braintree Sports & Health Club. This will make sure that clubs that use the facilities can continue to compete regionally. The pitch and the track are regularly used for schools district sports days as well as regional athletic and football competitions.

• Creation of gardens of remembrance within some of Braintree District Council’s cemeteries.

• CCTV upgrades in Braintree and Halstead towns.

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Council tax to rise to fund investment?

COUNCIL tax bills are expected to rise to help cover the cost of more than £42 million of investment in the Braintree district.

The average household will be asked to pay an extra £3.55 per year by Braintree Council, which is proposing a 2.75 per cent rise in its council tax bills.

The authority says the cost of some services will also increase but all charges in council-run car parks will remain frozen.

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Council finance boss David Bebb (pictured) said: “Despite having millions less coming in from Government grants, we have been forward thinking and innovative.

“We are a low-tax authority and our proposed council tax precept will mean we have the fourth-lowest council tax in Essex.

“We’re investing in the things that matter to our residents and we’re keeping the quality of our services high.

“Our satisfaction rates remain higher than the national average and we have recently been awarded the Customer Service Excellence Standard for the fifth year.”

Each level of council sets out its own council tax bill every year.

Essex County Council is also proposing to increase its bill by an average of £50 per year.

This is in addition to the demands set by parish councils and the police, fire and crime commissioner.

Braintree Council says the rise in council tax will also help to cover the significant increase in the cost of collecting and disposing of residents’ rubbish.

Both the budget and council tax rises must be approved by cabinet and full council before coming into effect.

Braintree Council says discussions are under way with Essex County Council and other authorities with the hope of introducing a council tax exemption for young people who leave care.

A council spokesman added: “This is something the council is keen to support and subject to agreement across Essex, will seek to introduce at the earliest opportunity.”

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Businesses could get rates boost

BUSINESSES could receive a greater reduction in rates under Braintree Council’s budget plan.

The authority is proposing to increase the amount of business rate relief available to eligible retailers, pubs and restaurants from one-third to 50 per cent.

The council already offers a number of different rate relief schemes for local businesses.

Bosses are also looking at how they can bring empty homes into use.

There are an estimated 200 empty houses in the district and stricter Government rules mean Braintree Council will be able to increase council tax for property owners who fail to occupy their building.

Council tax for homes which have been empty for two years increases by 100 per cent.

New laws mean councils can raise that to 200 per cent after five years, and a whopping 300 per cent after ten years.

As an incentive, property owners will be entitled to a refund of the additional council tax for the previous 12 months if they bring their homes back into use in the new financial year starting in April.