Controversial plans to introduce green waste charges and increase car park fees have been revealed as a council as unveiled its budget plans for 2023/24.

Braintree Council has released its plans for what it says has been the “toughest budget yet”.

Among the proposals, are an increase in council tax and car park tariffs as well as the introduction of charging for green waste collections.

It is proposed to recommend a council tax increase of 2.5 per cent for 2023/24, an increase of £4.68 for the year or 9p a week based on an average Band D property.

The budget also reaffirms a commitment to introduce a charge for the green waste collections by spring 2024 for residents who use the service.

If approved, this would be over a 12-month period unlike the current service which stops during the winter months.

Proposals also include increases to car parking tariffs. Further detail on these proposals will be considered at a cabinet meeting on March 13.

To help residents cope with the increased cost of living, it is proposed to use £1million of the council’s New Homes Bonus allocation to support communities by working with partners to provide food security, helping the most vulnerable through existing community groups and organisations, and enable physical and emotional health and wellbeing.

The budget plans also underline the council’s ongoing commitment to invest in “priority services”.

These include litter-picking and street cleansing of the A12, continuing to fund community group activities and projects across the district, boosting economic growth projects in Witham, and investment into sports and recreation, carbon reduction, car park and play area and open spaces improvements.

READ MORE >> Prolific Greggs sandwich thief dubbed 'Piccalilli' is banned from shop by police

READ MORE >> Elderly couple see chimney destroyed as two crews tackle residential fire

A spokesman said: “Supporting residents and businesses through the cost-of-living crisis and protecting essential frontline services are at the centre of the budget plans for 2023/24.

“Being able to fulfil a legal duty to set a balanced budget and protect essential services remains extremely challenging with increased cost pressures faced by the council, driven by inflation above 10 per cent, rises in utility and fuel costs and interest rates, and greater demand on services. 

“This year’s budget proposals balance the need to support residents and businesses through this difficult period, whilst also seeking to improve and invest in services, and at the same time ensure long-term financial stability of the council.

“Where possible, the council has tried to avoid impacting key services, however given the scale of the challenge facing the council, inevitably there has had to be some difficult choices made in the budget.”

Braintree and Witham Times: Braintree council leader Graham ButlandBraintree council leader Graham Butland (Image: N/A)

Council leader Graham Butland said: “Spiralling inflation and years of government underfunding alongside extra demand on services puts councils against a backdrop of financial challenges.

“This means we are having to make some difficult budget decisions to stabilise our financial position, whilst ensuring we protect essential services our residents and businesses rely on.

“Part of this means having to increase council tax but we’ve worked hard to ensure this is as low as possible as we know times are tough for everyone.

“We want to ensure our focus is on helping those most at risk from the cost-of-living crisis, as well as ensuring we continue to offer and spend money on the services that matter most to our residents, businesses, and communities.”

Finance boss John McKee added: “Like many local authorities, this is the toughest budget we’ve ever faced.

“With council finances under more pressure than ever, coupled with extra demand on core services, it is essential for our budget strategy to consider changes to the way some services are delivered so that we can continue to prioritise vital services and minimise impact on residents.

“We have looked at every possible option to find savings which we’ve achieved through planned efficiencies and maximising income, but councils, just like any business or family, are also affected by inflation as well as price rises for goods and services and more people need our services.

“I am grateful we have a strong track record of good financial management which has left us in a better position than many councils, however the financial situation will continue to be a challenge as we project an estimated £2million budget gap to be addressed by 2026/27.

“In order to deliver for residents and communities, we will need to continue making savings in future years and transform how the council works so we can continue to balance the books.”

The draft budget will be considered by the council’s Performance Management Scrutiny committee on February 1 and cabinet on February 6.

The final budget is to be discussed and approved at full council on February 20.