A CASH-STRAPPED council says it faces “difficult decisions” and will “continue to look for savings” after it outlined its latest budget proposals.

Braintree Council has revealed its budget for 2024/2025, setting out its plan to “protect essential services”, “deliver on priorities” and “ensure long-term financial resilience”.

The council says it has made £10million in savings and extra income over the past ten years.

It said whilst it can set a balanced budget for 2024-2025, a budget gap increasing up to £2.3 million per annum is projected by 2027-28.

“Doing nothing to deal with the budget shortfall would mean having to use nearly £6million of balances to be able to set a legal budget,” the council said.

“A volatile and uncertain world with continuing inflationary pressures and increased demand for council services means the financial pressures will only grow.

“Without knowing what local government funding will be from central government beyond 2024/25 makes it extremely difficult for the council to plan with any degree of certainty.

“This means like most other councils, it must continue to look for savings and confront difficult decisions.”

Last year, Braintree Council announced plans to introduce charges for garden waste collections starting March 2024.

This has generated just under £1 million so far with more than 50 per cent of eligible households subscribing for the first year, playing a “significant role” in closing the 2024/2025 budget gap.

In the new budget, a rise in the council’s share council tax is being proposed, to £200.07, an extra 11p per week based on a Band D property.  

The council will continue to support low-income households with the recently approved Council Tax Support Scheme and an extra £50,000 has been set aside to be allocated through an Exceptional Hardship Fund. 

The council is also proposing to continue investing in essential services.

Priorities include affordable housing, waste service delivery, play area improvements and supporting the district to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.

The Councillor Community Grant scheme will continue, with £1,250 allocated to each councillor to use to support community projects.

Funding for the Street Scene Partnership is to be retained in 2024/25, paid to parish councils to support them in keeping local areas looking clean, tidy and well-maintained.

Braintree Council leader Graham Butland said: “It’s no secret how tough it has been for local government finances over recent years and councils like ours have done well to manage this given the national uncertainty over financial resources.

“We welcome the recent announcement from the Government of extra funding for councils and for Braintree we anticipate some increase in our government funding.

“This money will, however, only be a one-off and will not solve our future budget gap.

“We will need to wait for the final funding settlement, expected in early February, before we can really say what this means for our budget.

 “Whilst we are in a better position than most, unfortunately, we are still not immune to financial pressures and the difficult choices we’ll have to make.

“We will do all we can to keep protect the essential services for our residents and businesses, supporting those who need our help whilst ensuring that the council takes the steps necessary to ensure we can balance our budgets, maintain our ambition and perform well, so that we remain fit for the future.”

The 2024/25 budget proposals will be presented at the council’s corporate scrutiny committee on January 31, Cabinet on February 5 and at its Full Council meeting for final approval on February 19.