Council tax will go up in Epping Forest to address the budget deficit caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the council’s finance and economic development portfolio holder Cllr John Philip has promised that to target ‘as low a council tax rise as he can get away with’ but acknowledge a need to source extra funding to preserve council services.

Cllr Philip told a cabinet meeting on Monday evening, despite the planned rise, he wanted Epping Forest to “remain a low council tax authority”.

A council report from July estimated Covid-19 would set the council back almost £7.5 million in costs and lost revenue.

The three largest financial pressures causes by the pandemic were listed as loss of leisure centre income (£2.8 million), loss of business rates income (£1.4 million) and loss of car parking income (£500,000).

Addressing the cabinet meeting, Cllr Phillip said: “My aim would be to keep the council tax rise as low as possible because we will hit the difficulty that is always imbedded in there that if you put council tax up too much, more people fail to pay the full amount and therefore you may not raise as much money.

“That said, I also have to be aware that if we run our reserves down too far, and we still don’t know what is going to happen over the winter this year, we might find ourselves in an exposed position there.”

The council’s emergency cash reserves were in a healthy position before the onset of the global health crisis – as of March 2019 unallocated reserves sat at £7.4 million.

Cllr Philip added: “I will be targeting as low a council tax rise as I can get away with, but we need to preserve our services.”

Cabinet also confirmed no change in the Council Tax Support scheme for another year.

Leader of the council Chris Whitbread said: “The Council Tax Support Scheme demonstrates our continuing commitment to less well-off families. It is especially important during the current covid recovery period when some local people are worrying about their jobs and employment."

Epping Forest Guardian:

For more breaking news, local headlines and features, ‘like’ our Facebook page.

We also have a Twitter account: @EppingFGuardian

Follow us to keep up-to-date with news in Epping Forest.