Essex County Council’s Full Council Meeting of Tuesday 13th July marked 49 days since the formation of the new Conservative Administration. The Leader of the Council, Cllr Kevin Bentley, provided an update on the progress of the first 100 days and set out the ‘Plan for Essex’, the Council’s medium-term strategy.
The foundation of the administration’s strategy both in the first 100 days and beyond is an ambition to ‘Level Up’ Across the County. Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Louise McKinlay is leading the council’s efforts to support individuals, organisations, and communities throughout the pandemic. Councillor McKinlay said, “Levelling Up runs through the heart of what we are seeking to achieve. Across our services, we are identifying where opportunities lie. From libraries to schools, summer camps to Essex Outdoors, we will bring forward a suite of initiatives to help and support families and communities.”
Councillor Bentley informed Full Council that action had already been taken to promote renewal, equality, and ambition, particularly in the key areas of the economy, education, the environment, health and social care, art and culture, and infrastructure.
To support the renewal of the economy there has been a £5 million boost to the business adaptations grant scheme to help the re-opening of business. The Council has also submitted £46 million of funding bids to the Community Renewal and Levelling Up Funds. Whilst, through the Kickstart Scheme, the Council has facilitated 100 jobs for young people, with an aspiration to bring 500 placements by the end of July.
The Leader announced that the Council has begun work to achieve educational excellence, with a £1 million investment in an Essex Year of Reading to ensure that every child in the county leaves school able to read at their age level or better.
The new administration has shown its commitment to tackling Climate Change, announcing a three-year programme to install thousands of LED lights, protecting the environment, and saving the taxpayer £39 million. The Council is also working on three net-zero school expansions.
Councillor Bentley reported that a new care technology service has been launched that will improve the quality of life of 20,000 care users. Work has also begun to encourage people to live healthy and active lives through the Active Essex strategy.
During the first 100 days the Council has demonstrated its commitment to strengthening engagement with the arts and culture sector. Indeed, the council is hosting a 'Summer of Culture', focusing on the importance of our connection with green spaces for mental and physical well-being.
On Highways Matters, by the end of the first 100 days - 1 million square metres of Essex Roads are set to have been resurfaced and nearly 2000 potholes filled!
Moving beyond the first 100 days, the Leader presented a vision for ‘Everyone’s Essex.’ The Plan for Essex seeks to renew our economy, promote equality for all and drive ambition. The Plan also stresses the importance of partnership working to achieve the best possible outcomes.
Reflecting upon the loss of the past eighteen months, Councillor Bentley stressed the importance of learning the lessons from this pandemic and its impacts on our communities. He announced that the County Council are setting up a joint Commission with the University of Essex to look at the long-term implications of the pandemic in Essex.
At the heart of the Plan for Essex is a focus on jobs and levelling up the economy. To achieve this the Council is set to invest £1 billion in infrastructure and pursuing green growth. Enhancing our environment is central to the Council’s plan, as they work to reach net-zero targets as an organisation and working with communities and businesses to enable them to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Plan also outlines the Council’s commitment to supporting older residents and people in care to be able to live their lives in comfort and with dignity. The strategy promotes independence and supporting carers. It also commits to addressing the symptoms and causes of health inequalities that have been highlighted during the pandemic.
There is also a commitment to children and families. Councillor Bentley said, “We believe that everyone should have the chance to go as far as their talent and hard work will take them.” Councillor Bentley also highlighted the Plan’s focus on educational excellence, family resilience and stability, levelling up outcomes for our most vulnerable children and young people, and improving the safety of our residents.
During the first half of the first 100 days the Conservative-led Council is showing its determination to improve the lives of the people across Essex. The 'Plan for Essex' moves that work forward setting out a strategy for the next four years which will drive the County forward as we work towards covid recovery, delivering on the principles of renewal, equality, and ambition, to create a better Essex for everyone.