THURROCK Council has claimed it will have a balanced budget until 2023, thanks to “strong financial planning” and an “impressive investment portfolio”.

The financial out-turn report, which will be presented to the council’s full cabinet this week, also highlights that 2018/19 was the first of five years of self-sufficiency.

Adding that the council’s reserves have increased by more than £13.5 million.

Total reserves – including education, public health, earmarked reserves, housing revenue account reserves and general fund balance – have increased from £21,971,000 on 31 March 2018, to £35,214,000 on 31 March 2019.

The reserves include £4 million set aside for financial resilience, including managing the transition into the new system of business rate retention and economic factors, and £3.45m for specific transformation projects.

Thurrock Council has maintained a general fund balance at £11 million, increased from £8 million just 2 years ago, and the housing revenue account balance at £2.175 million.

Over the course of last year the council invested nearly £66m in key capital and infrastructure projects including: £10m on transforming council homes £25.6m improving highways infrastructure more than £1m on environmental improvements, including improvements to war memorials, burial grounds and public spaces.

Councillor Shane Hebb, deputy leader of Thurrock Council, said: “We are in one of the strongest financial positions of any unitary authority in the UK and our current financial out-turn report shows that our finances are going from strength to strength.

“The simple facts are that Thurrock currently has a 4-year balanced budget and a published £16 million surplus over the same period with no cuts to services as well as freezing council tax for this year – something less than 5 per cent of councils in the UK achieved last year.

“Despite freezing Council Tax, increasing general reserves, Thurrock Council has invested significantly in adults’, children’s and environmental services, including £7 million for new bin lorries and providing funding for new local schools, as examples.

“On top of this we have gone above and beyond by committing £5 million from surpluses created over the last two years to fund services councils do not have a legal duty to provide, including £500,000 for mental health support in schools, £670,000 this year and last year to tackle anti-social behaviour, £1 million for extra police over three years, and £1.5 million for environmental improvements.”