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Cheshire East Council chiefs will need to make £7.5 million in savings by the end of 2019-20 to balance the books following rising demand for its services, writes Stephen Topping.

The authority is currently facing a £5.5 million overspend in the “people” department responsible for social care services – including a £3.4 million overspend in its children and families department.

It comes as the council has seen a rise in its number of cared-for children from 484 in March to 510 by the end of August – meaning additional costs for care placements and staffing requirements.

Meanwhile, the borough’s ageing population has led to an increase in demand for adult social care services – including some residents with more complex care needs – contributing to a further £2.1 million overspend.

CEC also faces a £1.1 million overspend in the ‘corporate’ department, which covers HR and finance, and a £1 million overspend related to employer pension contributions.

But the council believes it will take enough “mitigating actions” to make sure it balances the books by the end of the financial year.

In CEC’s mid-year finance review presented to cabinet on Tuesday, Alex Thompson, director of finance and customer services, said: “Local government is going through a period of financial challenges, with a combination of increasing demand for services, rising costs and reduced Government grant.

“The council’s response is to focus on increasing efficiency and productivity that enables us to deliver sustainable, quality services.

“Demand for council services is increasing, with more individuals and families needing support and services than ever before.

“This reflects an increase in population but also reflects changes in demographics.

“This demand is resulting in revenue pressures of £7.5 million (2.7 per cent) against a net revenue budget of £282.2 million.

“Robust action is being taken to mitigate this position, such as reducing non-essential spending to deliver a balanced out-turn position and protect general reserves.”

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