children's services- Council Tax hike - chief executive appointed

Cheshire East has approved a budget which includes cuts to services and a 4.99% hike in council tax – adding an extra £81.15 to an annual bill for a Band D property, writes Belinda Ryan.

Council leader Sam Corcoran (Lab) told a meeting of the full council there was no alternative because “central government crashed the economy, local government are having to pick up that”.

The council has a funding gap of £20 million for 2023/24, which is why it has to make cuts and savings so it can balance its books.

Savings will be made by measures such as cutting back on the maintenance of parks, public open spaces and other green spaces and reducing library opening hours – although libraries will remain open on Saturdays.

Measures to boost the council’s coffers include increasing parking charges and charging for garden waste collection.

All Conservatives at the meeting, and three non-grouped councillors – Julie Smith, Sarah Pochin and Nicky Wyllie – voted against the budget.

The council leader referred to the political and financial “chaos” at national government level and said: “It is remarkable, and a great credit to officers that, despite all that chaos, we have a four-year fully balanced budget before us.”

He said Cheshire East had specific problems to deal with because the previous Conservative administration had left the council with low reserves in 2019.

“If only our reserves were as high as the £26m that the council had when it was formed on April 1 2009, then we could use reserves to ride out the current crisis as some other councils are doing,” he said.

Opposition leader Janet Clowes (Con) blamed the financial crisis facing councils on post pandemic impacts, high inflation and soaring energy prices as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

She stressed this was not the budget of the Conservative group, who felt ‘divorced’ from the process.

“Realistically, this is a budget of cuts – to staff, to frontline services, to assets and to capital projects,” she said.

The Tory group leader said some proposals included as savings still needed further consulting on.

“To put in sums of money against the budget which are still reliant on future consultation is not good practice,” said Cllr Clowes.

Deputy leader Craig Browne (Ind) said 75% of councils were having to increase council tax by the maximum permitted.

“Fortunately we extended our council tax support scheme in 2022/23 to provide a greater level of protection to those families on the lowest incomes,” he said.

Regarding the cuts he said: “There are no easy choices, just options with varying degrees of pain.”

The deputy leader said the council was continuing with plans to borrow to invest £6.3m in the highways capital programme, which would be used for preventative work.

Liberal Democrat leader Phil Williams said his party was worried about the council’s “dangerously low” reserves.

He said his group also had concerns about garden waste collection charges and proposals to increase parking charges and introduce fees in towns which don’t currently have them.

Opposition councillors claim the Labour/Independent administration could have done more since coming to power to boost the council’s finances.

Conservative group leader Janet Clowes (Wybunbury) asked why the council was spending so much on bussing children to mainstream schools.

“I have repeatedly questioned why, in the light of rising SEND [special educational needs and disability] demand for transport, opportunities to reduce mainstream, rural school transport routes have not been actively pursued,” said Cllr Clowes.

“Modifications to two potential safe walking routes to school in my own ward would pay for themselves in less than a year, negating the need for school buses, and save this council in the region of £250,000 per annum. That is just one ward.”

Cllr Sarah Pochin (Bunbury, Non grouped) said over the past four years residents she represented had suffered problems with flooding, bridges collapsing and no winter gritting at primary schools but, she was told, there was no money.

“We continue to pile money into adult social care and children and families because we’re told we have to,” she said.

“And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t support those valuable areas but who’s scrutinising the costs?

“Why is there a £4m increase in school transport? Why is there a £27m increase in adult social care, just down as cost demand?”

With regard to proposals to, once again, look at parking charges she said: “I’ve been asking for eight years for us to charge for parking in Sandbach and those places with no parking charges. That would bring money into the council.”

But Labour and Independent councillors said costs had soared and cuts were necessary because of the government’s actions.

Nantwich councillor Arthur Moran (Ind) argued that, with regard to adult social care, the government had transferred what is a national tax responsibility to the council “and that is wrong”.

“This government has a broken promise,” he said.

“It said it would fix adult social care, it hasn’t – it’s kicked it up the road.”

Crewe councillor Connor Naismith (Lab) said party politics, both at a national and local level, had a bearing on the finances of the council.

“Not only did government start the fire with their failed ideological experiment over the summer, their response, as always for local government, is to expect us to put it out with a water pistol,” he said.

“I do not want to raise council tax by a single penny for residents who are struggling to put food on their table or heat their homes, but that is the government’s only answer to what can only be described as a crisis in local government finance.”

The 23-24 budget was approved, together with a friendly amendment from the Conservatives to look at a lane rental scheme – which could see utility companies charged up to £2,500 ‘rent’ a day for digging up some roads to carry out repairs in the borough.

The council tax increase means a Band D payer will now pay £1,707.39 for the Cheshire East part [precept] of the council tax.

When the police and fire precepts are included – and adding in the average for a parish council charge of £63.71 – council tax bills for a Band D resident in Cheshire East will be around £2,109, depending on which parish or town they live in.

2 Comments

  1. I agree about the pavements in Nantwich – whoever chose a light brown colour needs a sense check. They look awful already having only been down a matter of weeks as they are already grubby. It would have been better to tarmac the whole lot which makes it much easier to dig up when there is a problem. It frustrates me to see the Authority wasting money like this when there are bigger problems to fix like social care and housing.

  2. How can the council warrant any increase in council tax,what about all the revenue from the new housing developments around the local area,total shambles the lot of them,regardless of political alinances.
    We need to get a grip in this area and stop putting up with the continuing poor planning and spending that this lot come up with.
    Take the new pavements in Nantwhich, 800000 for what I can only say is a poor return on investment, wrong colour, show up all the stains,will quickly deteriorate due to being dug up for works,this has already happened, its like living in a bloody circus, run by clowns 🤡

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website, to learn more please read our privacy policy.

*

Captcha * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.