Braintree district households to receive £25 to support them during cost of living crisis


Braintree District Council is proposing a £25 New Homes and Growth Dividend to be paid to all eligible council taxpayers in 2023/24*, after it was announced at a Cabinet meeting this week (Monday, 6 February).

The extra payment is proposed to further support residents during the cost of living crisis and offer an element of universal support to all households across the district.

This is on top of the proposal to allocate £1m of New Homes Bonus expected to be received for 2023/24 to support those who need it the most in the district by providing food security, supporting community groups and organisations, rural communities having greater access to support, and enabling physical and emotional health and wellbeing.

The £25 New Homes and Growth Dividend will come from funding that has been set aside in reserves for five years from the New Homes Bonus, a grant paid by central government to local councils that reflect and incentivise housing growth in local areas, for the A120 Millennium Way slips project. This follows a recent unsuccessful bid to central government’s Levelling Up Round 2 Fund, after which Essex County Council (ECC) advised Braintree District Council that the project is unlikely to be included in their programme in the near future.

The reprioritisation of the project by Essex County Council has meant that Braintree District Council needs to consider its own allocation of £2.5million previously allocated to help fund the project.

It is therefore proposed to now use the funding to provide support to all eligible households who pay council tax in the Braintree district with a one off-payment of up to £25* which would be credited directly into Council Taxpayers’ account. This is estimated to benefit around 64,000 eligible council taxpayers, utilising £1.6million of the funding.

Cllr Graham Butland, Leader of Braintree District Council, said: “It is disappointing news about the Millennium Way Slips project, in light of the unsuccessful funding bid to central government as part of their Levelling Up Round 2 Fund. Improvements to the A120 are important for the district, helping to alleviate traffic congestion for road users and making the network safer, however as a partner local authority, we understand the difficult financial position that ECC is in and recognise that they need to prioritise their current capital funding.

“Given ECC highlighting to us that it is unlikely they will be able to fund their contribution to the project in the short term, we have taken the opportunity to reprioritise our capital contribution and instead of keeping it in reserves, to use this funding to be able to provide help for all households with the current challenges they are all facing from the cost of living crisis.

“If we used this funding to decrease the percentage in the proposed increase in council tax for 2023/24, this would have a further impact on the budget gap over the medium-term financial strategy, making the financial challenge more difficult in years to come. Council Tax is a regressive tax and the £25 dividend will mean those in lower value homes will pay less for BDC’s element of council tax than those in high value homes, for example, those in Band A will pay 17% less than they currently pay.

“Improving the A120 is a project we remain committed to seeing being delivered. We will continue to work with Essex County Council, National Highways and Department for Transport to promote and lobby for improvements to the A120 that are long overdue and play our part in its delivery when a financially viable project is finalised.”

A new transformation reserve will be established from the balance of funds remaining from the Millennium Slips contribution. This would be used to fund one-off costs required to improve the way Braintree District Council operates, make services more efficient and help address the future budget gap set out in the medium-term financial strategy.

The proposal, along with the final budget for 2023/24, will go for final approval at a Full Council meeting on Monday, 20 February 2023.

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