SCHOOLS and roads will be at the forefront of Essex County Council spending in the year ahead.

David Finch, councillor for finance at County Hall, said the council's capital programme of investment would concentrate on the two areas for 2013-14.

He made the comments while presenting the provisional budget, which he said focused on economic growth and protecting vulnerable people. The spending plans also include a freeze on the authority's share of council tax.

Senior councillors agreed the proposals at a cabinet meeting earlier today. It will now be voted on by full council on February 5.

Mr Finch said: "Like most councils we are receiving less government funding this year compared to last year.

"Despite this I am delighted we have been able to develop recommendations which, while identifying savings, continue to ensure we provide quality, value for money services, make investments in key areas, and deliver a freeze in our share of the council tax for the third successive year."

The tax freeze means the council is eligible for a government grant equivalent to if they had raised council tax by one per cent.