AS A vote on the first council tax increase in eight years nears, Epping Forest District Council has laid out the reasons why it thinks residents are getting a good deal.

On February 1 the Cabinet voted for a 2.48 per cent tax rise, meaning the bill for the average Band D property owner will rise from £148.77 to £152.46 next year, if councillors at a full meeting on February 22 also back the proposals.

In the Cabinet meeting Finance Portfolio Holder Councillor Gagan Mohindra argued reduced grants and rising costs had led to the proposed increase.

He said: “As the budget setting approaches, my council colleagues and I still have to make some tough choices.

“Refuse and recycling costs are going up as inflation and cuts in the price for recycled materials have hit income.

“Reductions in the central government Revenue Support Grant are bigger than previously expected. It is worth noting the grant will end completely by 2019/20.”

While 23 new council homes were recently completed in Waltham Abbey and further developments in Loughton, Epping and Coopersale are due to be finished next year, income from council houses is set to fall by one per cent as average rent is brought down to £93.34.

As some forms of income have fallen, the council has moved to reduce outgoings by scrapping office space and encouraging flexible working.

Cllr Mohindra added: “Smarter ways of working are also set to achieve savings.

“Long term reduction in the need for office space is being achieved through better use of technology.

“Major new IT investment is expected to be off-set by the benefits of flexible working and a possible reduction in staffing levels through the Council’s People Strategy.”

On the rosier side of things, some revenue streams have begun to swell.

“It is not all doom and gloom,” Cllr Mohindra continued.

“The successful completion of the Epping Forest Shopping Park is projected to add income of £2.5million, money the Council plans to spend on maintaining our local services.

“The recent re-letting of the Council’s Leisure Centre Management contract to Places for People is saving almost £1million a year as well as helping to fund the construction of a brand new leisure centre in Waltham Abbey plus major improvements to our centres in Loughton, Epping and Ongar.

“The new Pay and Display management contract is now bedded in, providing further savings while additional parking spaces are adding to income.”

What do you think? Is your council tax being put the good use? Would you like to contribute more? Comment below or email