The head of strategy at Essex County Council has admitted that a key plank of the council is to “empower communities to be less reliant on services” in the face of accusations the authority’s policies are running counter to its strategic objectives.

Patrick Guthrie said the council needed to “deliver more for less” in the face of ongoing cuts to its core funding.

He said: “Part of the strategy is to deliver more for less  – that is one of the strategic aims

“There are objectives about empowering communities

“The strategy doesn’t go into detail about specific policy but it is fairly explicit about the challenging environment and the need to deliver more for less.

“The fact is the council has to work with communities to empower communities to be less reliant on services.

“That is quite clearly set out in the strategy as a direction of travel.”

But that strategy was questioned  – not least because of what some members see as a  contradiction between policy being implemented to raise cash and its overall strategy to improve health.

Cllr Julie Young, representing Labour, said: “Just as an example, there will be something in the strategy about living well – keeping fit and healthy.

“But then we see something about the council charging people for park runs on their country parks.”

Cllr Young was referring to reports that fitness clubs could be charged as much as £400 a year to use country parks across Essex – helping  raise £40,000 for the council.

She added: “It seems bizarre that you have a strategic approach and there are action plans below it but then decisions get made that seem counter to the organisational objectives.”