savings - Leader Cllr Sam Corcoran - mental health champions

Cheshire East Council has to find at least £20 million of savings or cuts to services to balance its books in the next financial year, writes Belinda Ryan.

The harsh reality was spelled out to councillors by leader Sam Corcoran (Lab) at Wednesday’s meeting of the full council.

Cllr Corcoran said the council’s risk register shows eight issues at the maximum risk category that is ‘highly likely and with a major impact’.

He told the meeting: “I have never seen the risk register in this state and nearly all of those risks are caused by issues outside of our control.

“One of those red-rated risks is council funding.”

The predicted financial out-turn after the first quarter was an £11.6m deficit, due to inflationary pressures and increased demand on services, mainly social care.

Cllr Corcoran said: “The forecast out-turn after quarter two, thanks to the efforts of officers, has come down by £3m, but a lot of that is due to one-off actions.”

He said even if Cheshire East puts council tax up by the maximum permitted next year “with inflation running at 11% even, a 5% increase is a real terms cut of 6%”.

“So the budget for next year, will have to find at least £20m of savings or cuts to services and all this at a time when the risks Cheshire East Council is facing and the demands on our services are greater than they have ever been,” said the council leader.

He said all committees have been asked to find savings to address the in-year inflationary pressures and to balance the budget for 2023/24.

“This will be a real test of the committee system,” he told councillors.

Cheshire East changed from a cabinet form of governance to a committee system in May 2021.

This means the majority of the council’s decisions on how it operates and spends money are made by politically proportionate decision-making service committees.

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