Cllr Craig Browne - allowances

Cheshire East Council is facing further financial pressures and look set for a potential shortfall of £18.7 million in 2023/24.

This is a massive increase on the forecast deficit of £12.8m published in the first financial review earlier in 2023.

And the authority is warning that “further difficult decisions” will be made.

They blame the shortfall increase on inflation and higher interest rates, which have made council borrowing more expensive, as well as rising demand on services.

Cuts and extra charges have already been agreed, including controversial plans to increase parking charges, introduce a garden waste subscription service, and cut library opening hours.

Cllr Craig Browne, (pictured) deputy leader of Cheshire East Council, said: “Despite the many measures and mitigations we are putting in place, forecast costs and demand for council services continue to exceed the approved budget.

“As a council, we are required by law to set a balanced budget at the start of the year and we cannot end the year with a deficit. We must balance the books.

“In February, the council agreed a budget and four-year financial strategy, including a range of proposals for savings and changes to services, including libraries, parking, garden waste collections and our maintenance of green spaces.

“We are already implementing these and know that any changes to valued council services can be difficult for the people who depend on those services.

“However, we are now facing the prospect of even more pressure on our budgets and those agreed savings will not be enough.”

The authority says uncertainty surrounding recent government announcements is adding to pressures.

These include the scrapping of HS2 north of Birmingham and asylum seeker accommodation, and uncertainty about winter pressures on health and care services.

Cllr Browne added: “We are pursuing a compensation and investment package in relation to HS2 but we have no certainty at this stage about the scale of impact or the compensation we can expect.

“Similarly, with asylum seeker hotels, the council has legal duties to find housing for anyone who presents as homeless.

“Government has announced that it is ending contracts with 50 hotels, meaning that people currently accommodated in those hotels may be at increased risk of homelessness.

“But it is unclear as to what that means for local councils, including Cheshire East.

“Equally, we know that NHS is preparing for a difficult winter. This has a knock-on effect on to the council’s social care services.

“At this point, we do not have clarity on any additional government support for the anticipated increased demand.

“These are just a few examples of the pressures and uncertainties we are facing.”

The potential shortfall of £18.7m is 5.3% of the council’s net revenue spending budget of £353.1m for 2023/24.

Cllr Nick Mannion, chair of the council’s finance sub-committee, said: “We are absolutely committed to protecting services for the people most at risk in our community.

“We are required by law to provide care and support services to the children, families and adults who need them.

“These are statutory services – they are a priority for the council and account for the significant majority of the council’s day-to-day expenditure.

“So, as costs, complexity and scale of demand increase, we are forced to find alternative ways of doing things and identify savings everywhere we can.

“Councillors and officers are working extremely hard to reduce the forecast deficit. We are leaving no stone unturned.

“Significant savings have already been identified to reduce the impact of these in-year pressures.

“However, at this stage, we are still left with the prospect of an £18.7m shortfall.

“It is inevitable that we will have to make further difficult decisions affecting council services in order to balance the budget this year and next.

“Where we seek to make changes, we will engage with those affected to understand the impacts of what we are proposing before we implement any change. But we must act at pace.

“These are unprecedented times. We know that people are seeing their household bills and other costs rising, while at the same time they are seeing reductions and changes in some council services.

“We cannot change the financial environment in which we are operating but we must do everything we can to ensure that essential services are maintained.”


  1. Steven Hogben says:

    So central government cuts to their revenue support to councils nationwide don’t affect Cheshire East?

  2. The Conservative government has cut its revenue support to Cheshire East by 63% since 2010. Therein lies the root of the problems.

  3. Cheshire East Council has struggled since it’s inception in 2009. IMO the problem was created by Hazel Blears when she split up Cheshire County Council – which delivered 80% of the services across Cheshire – into East and West. Most of the staff from CCC transferred to CWAC which after all based itself in Chester initially, leaving CEC high and dry. We should have had a Cheshire wide unitary council, which would have cost less to run and had better quality staff.

  4. When I moved to Nantwich in October 1994 I paid £75.00 per month in Council Tax , ten instalments. Today it is £256 .31. We have to seriously question if Cheshire East delivers the tax payer value for money. I analyse expenditure within the Nantwich Town Council Precept. It does not take a genius to determine savings can be made. Cheshire East I am sure can make savings. The tax payer has a right to demand value for their money.
    I suggest that many thousands of pounds are wasted.
    Officers and elected representatives are not held responsible for failure, incompetence. The fountain in Nantwich Lake some years ago , is a good example.
    For example why have Nantwich Town Council agreed to support opening the library for half a day a week, costing £22,000 per year.
    What management information was used to determine this as good value.
    Was analysis of daily usage of the library made, which are the busiest days and the quietist days considered.
    Surely people do not need access every morning and afternoon, even when you take account the library is closed Wednesday afternoon, Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday.
    Has the time come to consider why the tax payer funds final salary pensions for public sector employees which add at least twenty percent to the salaries bill.
    In the private sector these benefits disappeared as a result of Gordon Browns budget years ago.
    We demand value from our supermarkets, hence the growth of Aldi and the discount stores.
    Cheshire East Council his behind inflation.
    A deficit of nearly 19 million pounds is a disgrace. Yet they can afford to pay a Chief Executive more than the Prime Minister.

  5. We need an overhaul of the tax system. Those that can need to pay more tax so that local authorities can be properly funded, and that includes closing all the loopholes for the ultra rich and businesses.
    We should see paying tax as a privilege not a penalty, but yet the politicians say no more tax increases to gain votes.
    Our mentality in the UK is completely wrong.

  6. This lot just keep getting worse, we apparently can’t afford to look after members of our own community let alone all the displaced people
    seeking asylum.
    When will people wake up and realise we are a small island with an ageing population, there is only so much money to provide vital services and we the tax payers are already at breaking point, you can only ring sow much water out of a sponge.

  7. Chris Moorhouse says:

    Are the batteries flat in their bean counters calculators? They don’t just get it wrong but they are 50% out. What do you expect when considering car park charging they don’t include the cost of providing the ticket payment machines which is surely a basic element.

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