DWINDLING funds provided by central government were heavily criticised by council members at a budget meeting.

Maldon District Council have agreed their budget for the next financial year, which includes a 2.99 per cent rise in council tax (£5.60 per year) to address a budget gap.

The council must find savings of £1.7 million by 2020/21, due to a combination of rising costs and no Revenue Support Grant being issued by Central Government for the Maldon district this year.

In his budget speech at a full council meeting on Thursday, leader Mark Durham told members the council had lost more than £3m in core grant since 2009.

He said: “The continuing austerity measures have led to unprecedented year on year reductions to local authority funding.

“Between 2016/17 and 2019/20, the council will have suffered a cumulative loss of 52 per cent of core grant in addition to the 43 per cent already lost in the previous spending review.

“Since 2009/10, the council has lost £3.2m in core grant.

“Over the next three months, this authority will take a hard look at itself in the mirror and examine its fundamental core structure and systems to ensure that we really are doing things in the most efficient way possible.”

Councillor Brian Beale, leader of the opposition on the council, slammed the lack of support from central government.

He said: “What an incredible disappointment to see even less support for the local authorities such as ourselves.

“This consistent slashing of financial support grants year on year is squeezing us all to a point where we can barely carry out our role of providing services and finances for our communities.

“With no support grant, it is now up to us to try and resolve the problem. But we simply cannot cope with it if we continue to be squeezed to the bone.

“I really feel action must be taken to prevent further cuts. Something has got to change.”