The leader of Essex County Council has said the authority will face a deficit of as much as £300m within five years if it does not tackle its budget.
Lord Hanningfield said he blamed the authority’s predicament on an unprecedented series of factors including increasing costs while looking at a significant reduction in income.
Factors demanding extra funding included:
- the county’s growing elderly population
- land fill tax
- the increasing cost of child protection
- the unexpected depth of the recession
Essex CC estimates that if it does not take action now then it will be faced with a budget gap in the region of £50m in 2010-11, rising to around £300m in 2013-14.
Lord Hanningfield said the council was on target to meet the £200m it has pledged to save over the next three year.
“These forecasts need to act as a wake-up call to the entire public sector,” he said. “Doing nothing is not an option. We must change and modernise if key public services are not to be reduced or simply cut altogether.
“We are fortunate in Essex that we have identified the need for change and are embarked on a major programme of modernisation to continue to provide the very best services for residents.
“I have also made a commitment to keep council tax to an absolute minimum in order to help families during this recession which again is why we need to look at every part of our operation and drive out inefficiencies.”