GOVERNMENT funding for councils in Essex has come under attack from Con- servative county council leader Lord Hanningfield.

The peer said his council faced tough choices to keep within the 2.2 per cent increase in funding, to the £232million allowed for 2008 to 2009.

The county council is launching a campaign called Fair Deal for Essex, to lobby for the county's particular needs and extra resources to meet them.

He said: "We have grave concerns over the impact this announcement will have on key services, particularly those which support our elderly and vulnerable population who require complex care and support. Coupled with the significant costs we are facing over waste disposal, this announcement leaves us in a situation which is increasingly perilous."

Lord Hanningfield said the funding settlement failed to take into account the impact of housing growth and the need for large-scale infrastructure projects.

He added: "I will be calling on all Essex MPs, as well as local politicians from all parties, to join me in taking this campaign to the very heart of Government to help safeguard future services."

Rochford District Council is also angry at the amount of extra funding it has received, which is only 2.2 per cent each year.

This means it has gone from a grant of £4.76million to £4.86million Deputy leader Keith Hudson said as a low-cost authority, the announcement would cause problems for local people. He added: "I predict we will have real difficulty in keeping council tax down, particularly when other cost pressures, such as the Government's national concessionary fares scheme, have yet to be finalised."

Southend has fared relatively well from the latest settlement process. Friday's Echo reported Civic Centre officials were pleasantly surprised the council was to get £4.5million more than expected over the next three years.

Top Tory: Basildon's increase is derisory
Residents in Basildon look set to face service cuts and higher council tax after the district council received a "derisory" Government grant.

Basildon Council's settlement grant from the Government is due to rise by just 1.4 per cent next year - and by only 1.3 per cent the following year.

Phil Turner, Tory councillor responsible for resources, said the settlement meant it would be almost impossible improve services and keep council tax rises at reasonable levels.

He asked: "How does the Government expect us, year after year, to take on new tasks, while at the same time starving us of the resources to make them work? The contribution from Government is falling, just at the time when demands and expectations from residents are rising."

Mr Turner said the modest nature of the settlement also meant it would be difficult to set aside cash to deal with emergencies and contingencies in the future..

Borough facing 'tight' times, says chief
CASTLE Point Council chief executive David Marchant predicted the borough's £189,000 increase in its £12million budget for next year would make things "tight".

Based on next year's budget total, the sum represents a 3.1 per cent increase.

Mr Marchant warned unless the Government fully funded its new concessionary travel scheme for pensioners, Castle Point might have to further increase council tax and also cut other services to meet the cost of the scheme.

He said: "We have big issues with the concessionary travel scheme. This is a separate settlement which we were hoping to hear about as well.

"If we can't get clarity on that, then it will be a real problem."

The council has also been told to expect an extra £184,000 in the 2009/10 financial year and an increase of just £165,000 the following year.