Thurrock Council's Cabinet, at its meeting on Wednesday 14 October, heard that work is already underway to close a £19million budget gap caused largely by the coronavirus pandemic.
As well as ensuring more is done to protect the most vulnerable members of our community throughout the pandemic, the council has also collected less revenue from business rates and council tax, so as to offer relief to hard-pressed residents and businesses.
Cllr Shane Hebb, Cabinet member for finance, said: "Our sound prudential financial management, which has seen our reserves increase by 131% since 2016, means that we are not in a position that many councils find themselves in and we have the breathing space to make considered, sustainable decisions for the long term instead of being forced to act in haste.
"We will use £5.5million of non-specific reserves to help us do this, including £1million allocated to the development of our Local Plan which will play a significant role in the borough's economic recovery.
"Thurrock Council has to make some tough decisions and we cannot simply rely on our reserves to get through this. Doing that will only delay and exacerbate the issues which we will have to deal with in future years and leave us in a less secure position.
"We need to work smarter to provide better services from fewer buildings to reduce our costs. A comprehensive review of our capital programme is underway and the council currently has a recruitment freeze - except for vacancies that are vital for the operation of essential services – to give us the flexibility we need in the short term as we plan for the future.
"By making excellent use of digital services and early intervention we can not only save money but can provide better services to residents.
"Make no mistake, there are tough times ahead but we will continue to reform and invest in services which generate the best outcomes for residents as we face this challenge."