Budget proposals will ensure children's and adults social care receive a spending boost in the next council year, as Thurrock Council sets a balanced budget for the 12 months from May 2022 to April 2023 year. It will be the second balanced budget in a post-COVID world.
Proposals are for a 1.99% increase in Council Tax to be allocated entirely on children's social care, and a 1% increase in the Adult Social Care precept.
For the average Band D property, this will cost households less than the price of a first-class stamp or a 2-pint bottle of milk each week.
Cllr Shane Hebb, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: "It is important that extra money is provided for key services which deal with the well-being of the borough's most vulnerable children and adults. Thurrock – like all councils – continues to face pressures in social care services following COVID.
"The Local Government Association commented in December 2021 that all councils would need to increase tax. Thurrock is no different. Where inflation is presently, this means that this is an under-inflationary increase.
"Thurrock's council tax levels are almost £500 less than some other unitary councils charge, and for context Thurrock receives £16.5m less than Southend – our nearest comparable council.
"The Cabinet have always said that tax will never be a single default approach. By reshaping services to better target outcomes for residents, managing recruitment and looking at how we can deliver services differently while ensuring minimal impacts on residents and focusing on only the most important capital projects, we have closed the budget gap we were facing next year.
"The investment approach, that elected members unilaterally approved in 2017, enabled reserves increases by over 300% since 2016 levels and has continued to produce income for the council, now 22 months after COVID-19 became a feature of all our lives. Councils across the country are in 'rainy day' scenarios, and Thurrock can use some of the reserves that were built-up for one-off pressures for such a scenario. Reserves levels will remain in excess of 2016 levels.
Cllr Barry Johnson, Cabinet Member for Education and Children's Social Care, said: "The pandemic has created real challenges and increased demand in children's social care nationally, not just in Thurrock. By ring-fencing proposed Council Tax increases we can ensure that we are doing all we can to protect some of the most vulnerable residents in the borough."