special needs budget - Council Tax hike - chief executive appointed

Cheshire East looks set to rubber stamp a budget later this month which includes the expected 4.99% council tax hike and the emergency closure of three tips from April, writes Belinda Ryan.

The corporate policy committee yesterday (Tuesday) voted by eight to five in favour of recommending the proposed 2024/25 budget to full council for approval.

The Conservatives voted against.

If, as expected, the budget is approved by full council on February 27, this will see Cheshire East’s portion of the council tax rise from £1,707.39 to £1,792.59 a year for a band D property.

The decision would also mean tips at Bollington, Middlewich and Poynton will close from April 1 ‘until the outcomes of the review of the long-term provision of HWRCs for Cheshire East has been presented to and approved by the environment and communities committee’.

Other service charges will increase including the newly introduced garden waste bin collection fee which will rise from £56 to £59 a year.

Head of finance Alex Thompson said: “The proposals that are in front of the committee present a robust and feasible set of proposals, albeit that the budget is only legal with the use of reserves.

“The use of those reserves does bring the level of reserves down to an inadequate level so therefore we need to be able to respond to that position.”

Cllr Jos Saunders (Poynton, Con) said the biggest challenge facing the council was the overspend in relation to special needs provision and the dedicated schools grant.

Cheshire East’s DSG deficit is forecast to be a whopping £90m by the end of this financial year and interest on this negative reserve is £3m this year and £6m next year.

This is a problem affecting councils nationally.

Cllr Saunders said: “If Labour win the next election they have mooted that they will remove the charitable status from independent schools.

“We currently have 500 children at independent schools at a cost of over £64,000 each, which equates to £30m.

“If that charitable status is removed we are potentially looking at having to find another £6m.”

Council leader Sam Corcoran (Lab) said: “Special education needs and the dedicated schools grant is the elephant in the room.

“The amount going into the negative reserve is huge and, in my opinion, we need government reform to address that fully as well as taking action locally and I would like to see a lot fewer children going out of area from Cheshire East Council to private schools outside the area.

“My ideal scenario would be we don’t send any children to private schools outside the area.”

Cllr Corcoran proposed the budget be recommended to council for approval and this was seconded by Cllr Michael Gorman (Wilmslow, Ind).

Cllr Corcoran told the committee Cheshire East was in a worse position than some councils because of its low reserves.

He said when the council was formed in 2009 general reserves were £22m and when Labour/Ind took control of the council in 2019 the reserves were at £10m.

This had been increased to £14m by the end of the March 2023 but still leaves the council with reserves of just four per cent compared to 9.4% in 2009.

“It is a significant achievement to have this legal budget before us today but a budget it only effective when it is implemented,” said the council leader.

“The 2023/24 budget was blown off course by inflation running at more than 10 per cent and the unexpected rise in demand in adults and children social care.”

He said social care makes up more than two thirds of the council budget, adding: “The government is faltering over reform and councils are paying the price.”

The full council meeting takes place at Macclesfield Town Hall at 11am on February 27.

2 Comments

  1. With all the money in total shortfall, what the blazes are they paying for kids to go outside the CEC to Private Schools? Well then they have to be brought back into the CEC areas of control and they will have to continue there. They are putting the annual bills up and making life so much more difficult for all households, and wasting money in other areas. Then they want to be paid extra money to empty the gardening bins, What the blazes are they playing at?

  2. Fantastic, I wish it was as easy for me to plug a shortfall in funding, sure my employer will be willing give me a rise to cover my impending shortfall.

    Just incase this bunch of idiots have not realised there is a cost of living crisis, which effects each and everyone of us,stop looking to blame everyone else and take a good look in the mirror, this labour run council has been in charge long enough to be fully responsible for this mess.

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.