COUNCIL tax will be frozen and major investments pumped into Basildon from April.

The Tory administration has outlined its budget for 2014/15 ahead of final approval later this month.

It has recommended council tax remain the same for the fourth consecutive year.

Bosses have announced a series of investments, including injecting £150,000 into refurbishing Billericay swimming pool, in Radford Crescent, and setting aside £300,000 to help clear the former travellers site at Hovefields and return it to green belt land.

It has also recommended £480,000 be set aside from next year’s budget to help with the authority’s negotiations over the future of the Laindon Centre.

But it was not all good news.

It has been revealed council house tenants face a 4.52 per cent increase in their rents, despite housing bosses previously claiming they were looking at reducing the figure for struggling residents.

It will mean average bills going up to £86.04 per week for 4,214 tenants.

Housing bosses have said moving away from Government guidance, which called for a rise, would impact on their planned investment into building more council homes.

Tony Ball, leader of the council, said: “At a time when so many households are struggling to make ends meet, it is important the council is also seen to tighten its belt and not make unnecessary tax rises.”

The authority also announce parking will remain free in council-owned car parks in Wickford, Billericay, and Basildon, while weekday charges will remain the same.

The council has found room to freeze the charges, despite the move losing it £1.7million since April.

The opposition Labour party has claimed the council has got its priorities wrong.

Byron Taylor, deputy leader of the group, said: “You are just accepting massive cuts in your budgets and those efficiencies will just be cuts in services and personnel.

“Putting cash into free parking in Billericay and Wickford is going against the real issues in Basildon. People are struggling out there – public sector wages are down 18 per cent since 2010.”

The council will rubber-stamp its budget at the full council meeting on February 20.


Traders delighted... but call for more spaces


TRADERS have rejoiced at news parking charges will remain free on certain days – but have told the council shopping still remains a problem in Billericay.

It will affect car parks off Billericay High Street and Radford Way, at the back of Wickford High Street and the town’s Ladygate Centre, and the lot behind the Basildon Centre.

Trevor Draper, owner of the Billericay Cook Shop, off High Street said: “We’re pleased the council is doing this, but the issue is lack of capacity.

“If the council wants to build more houses, it needs the infrastructure to go
with it.”

Proposed parking charge increases in Rayleigh, proposed by Rochford Council, have led to an uproar there.

Phil Turner, deputy leader of Basildon Council, said: “The strength of feeling in Rayleigh shows the impact charges can have on the High Street.”