THURROCK Council is still looking at budget deficit of more than £14million over the next three years, despite cuts and sale of council assets.

The council’s draft budget includes a 1.99 per cent rise in council tax, which will be dedicated entirely to children’s services. There will also be a one per cent increase in the adult social care precept in the budget which is balanced for the coming year despite economic pressures.

Shane Hebb, councillor responsible for finance. presented a budget report to cabinet last Wednesday. Mr Hebb said: “The overall financial position over the next three years shows a revised deficit of £14.6million. We are looking to set a balanced budget for 2022/23 and we are going to provide an under inflation economic stimulus into our children and adult social care departments. We are going to reform and redefine the council services of the future and we should also recognise commercial income has given us a safety net of those reserves without which this council would have collapsed years ago.”

The council has previously come under fire for making costly investments, but Mr Hebb added returns on those outlays had profited the council. He said: “After all interest is paid, this authority has earned £115million to spend on services.”

Welcoming the extra cash from the precept for adult social care, Deborah Huelin, councillor responsible for adults and communities, said: “As a proportion to our overall budget, Thurrock’s adult social care spend looks higher than average but this is due to our unusual position of having a higher proportion of lower banding housing and far less higher banding housing than other authorities, meaning we raise less income via our rates yet often still have the same problems providing adult social care.

“I want to reassure residents that monies made available for adult social care in Thurrock are spent wisely and effectively by council. You can see from the very fact we have one of the lowest spends per head in England yet provide an exceptional level of care.”

Ms Huelin added: “Having said that, adult social care in Thurrock is under pressure. We’ve seen over 800 new adults requiring our help and care post pandemic and this could well include a knock-on effect to NHS primary care during the pandemic because it’s the high-quality preventative care network that we work hard to achieve with our health partners that in turn stops or slows down the need for higher costing measures such as residential care rather than being sorted at home.”