Council increases council tax to boost spending on key services

Cllr Sam Corcoran

Cheshire East Council has agreed a balanced budget for 2020-21 aimed at protect key frontline services and delivering on the authority's strategic priorities whilst delivering value for money for residents.

The full council voted on Thursday, 20th February, to spend an additional half a billion pounds on capital schemes over the next four years, including £257m on the local highway network.

Of this, £185m relates to major projects (including the Congleton Link Road and Poynton Relief Road), £0.5m on car parking projects and £71m on other highway works, which includes £40m for improving the condition of the network.

In 2020/2021 the council will also increase spending on adult social care by around £8m (from £110m to £118m) to meet increasing demand and the growing number of older people and increase spending on education and protecting vulnerable and cared for children by £4m (up from £59m to £63m). They are also increasing spending on health, and the environment.

To support the increase in budgets, Council tax will increase by 3.99 per cent in 2020-21. A Band D property bill will rise from £1,446.27 to £1,503.98 – an increase of about £1 per week for an average household.

Two per cent of the tax rise is ringfenced to boost adult social care services for vulnerable and older people.

Following more than two months' of public consultation, the council considered comments from a range of people and the overall budget was increased, specifically in children's services, to reflect the feedback received.

Following consultation, the revenue budget will be balanced for 2020-21 with net revenue spending of £301m and total capital investment of £472m over the next four years.

Councillor Amanda Stott, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for finance, IT and communications, said: "Firstly I'd like to thank residents, staff, partners, businesses and all members for their feedback during the consultation period. I want to reassure people that we have listened and taken on board your many suggestions and comments.

"At the full council meeting, we have agreed how spending will be prioritised over the next year and what impact that will have on council tax. I am proud that this authority maintains its deserved reputation for financial prudence and delivering balanced budgets.

"Cheshire East, along with many other local authorities across the country, continues to experience a period of financial challenges, as we face a combination of rising costs and increasing demand for services – especially in adult social care and cared for children.

"While government provides some additional grants, the uncertainty over future funding remains a significant concern as we work to become a self-sustaining, financially independent council with a focused and robust business model that delivers real value for money to our residents."

Councillor Sam Corcoran, leader of Cheshire East Council, said: "The ability to deliver financial savings while maintaining services across the council is extremely challenging – for all local authorities. These financial reports and budget outline how this council continues to maintain sound finances in a tough economic climate and delivers real value for money services to our residents.

"Moreover, all major schemes in future will be shaped by a decisive and innovative policy around climate change. Our draft environmental strategy, to be finalised later this year, will ensure we have a real focus and joined-up approach.

"Recent events, both locally and around the world, show us how seriously we need to adjust our way of life and here, at Cheshire East Council, we will be doing our bit to cut carbon emissions and steer the council towards a carbon-neutral position by 2025. The medium term financial strategy, approved at today's council meeting, allocates more than £1.5m towards delivering the council's environmental objectives.

"As a council, we are determined to deliver for local residents and to do everything we can to maintain Cheshire East as one of the best places in the North West to live, work, visit and do business."

Councillor Craig Browne, deputy leader of Cheshire East Council, said: "Our priorities will always be focused on our residents and the safeguarding and protection of our most vulnerable adults and children. More than 60 per cent of our revenue budget is spent on 'people' services.

"Alongside this, we will continue with our extensive programme to deliver sustainable economic growth, coupled with a significant infrastructure programme, including major highways schemes and the regeneration of Crewe and Macclesfield."

Cheshire East Council is the third-largest unitary authority in the North West, delivering around 500 services and supporting more than 375,000 local residents with an annual turnover of more than £700m.

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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Andy Brown
Friday 21st February 2020 at 12:18 pm
At least Dick Turpin wore a mask.
Kathryn Blackburn
Friday 21st February 2020 at 2:04 pm
My pips had already squeaked.
Tony Haluradivth
Sunday 23rd February 2020 at 9:45 pm
Blah blah blah. Who will they put on gardening leave and give a huge payout to this year? I thought the Independents on our Council were going to keep an eye on Corbyn's mates in our CEC cabinet to make sure they didn't have these hikes. Factor in the Police precept hike (a hike allegedy given the thumbs up by us in their rigged survey) & a possible parish council hike it will probably be more like a £12 a month rise for most medium
sized properties in Alderley.My wife calculated that we have paid nearly £1000 in hikes to CEC in the last 7 years (at least it has helped pay off Mike Suarez and all those other "top" executives who left under a cloud).
Alan Brough
Monday 24th February 2020 at 10:06 am
@ Craig Browne,

My heart sinks to read the statement attributed to you in the above article.

It's the same mindless, patronising obfuscation that characterised the Conservative Years at CE Council.

The reduction in services is swingeing - the current flooding will almost certainly be blamed on "Climate Change" when in fact it's almost certainly due to CE's ongoing neglect of simple drain maintenance and street cleaning.

The broken state of our roads and pavements is a dangerous disgrace that the Councils patching policy will never resolve - however, it'll likely continue as a key strategy in driving down carbon emissions. Cars cant pollute if they're locked in garages because drivers are fearful of Cheshire Easts "Rutted Road Challenge."

Likewise, public transport services have been axed to a point where it's impossible to make any meaningful travel plans based on bus or train services, but hey, if there are no trains on the track or buses on the road, that means even lower carbon emissions....Bingo!

The ongoing investigations into the wrong-doing and misconduct of senior Council Staff shows no sign of any conclusion. Remind me, how many millions are we up to now?

We are NOT getting value for money and the proposed (above inflation) increase just adds considerable insult to grievous injury!
Craig Browne
Monday 24th February 2020 at 2:19 pm
Hi Alan,

Thank you for your comment.

I am very keen that we are open and honest with our residents about where the vast majority of their money is being spent, hence my statement (above) that over 60% of the council's revenue budget is spent on "people" services. These services are summarised in paragraph four of the article above: adult social care and cared for children. These services are also statutory (i.e. the council gets no choice over whether to deliver them).

You will see from paragraph four (above) an increase for adult social care of 7.2% (from £110m to £118m) and for cared for children of 6.7% (from £59m to £63m). This reflects not just an increase in the cost of delivering these services, but also a growth in demand for them which funding from central government funding is not keeping pace with.

Of the 3.99% Council Tax increase, 2.00% is ring-fenced to support the above services (central government allows this, in recognition that councils would otherwise be unable to fund them), which means that you are in effect left with an increase of 1.99% to cover increases in costs across every other service delivered by the council. This is more or less in line with the current CPI inflation rate, which stands at 1.8%.

Having to spend around two-thirds of its budget on these "people" services, means that the council has only one-third of its budget remaining to cover everything else including many of the areas you mention: road repairs, gully emptying, street sweeping, flooding, parks maintenance, libraries, street lighting, planning application, planning enforcement, parking enforcement, refuse collections, leisure centres, supported bus services (the list goes on).

Over the last five years, central government has continued to provide a grant of £12m annually for Cheshire East to manage and maintain our highways. In real terms, this amounts to a reduction in funding of £1m by 2020/21. Meanwhile, the council's Strategic Highways Team has concluded that an additional investment of £17m is required just to maintain the existing condition of our roads; anything less is just managing decline.

Our situation is not helped by the fact that for every £1 raised in business rates across Cheshire East, only 30p remains in the borough with the remaining 70p going directly to central government. By contrast, Liverpool retains £1.30 for every £1.00 raised in business rates. In summary, whilst I completely share your frustration, I would just perhaps query whether it should in fact be directed more towards Westminster than towards Westfields.

Kind regards,
Craig
Kathryn Blackburn
Tuesday 25th February 2020 at 8:54 am
Yes Craig but the point is are we getting value for our money and is the council getting value for money from its contractors. My feeling is No money is not being well spent.
Tony Haluradivth
Tuesday 25th February 2020 at 12:50 pm
New CEO appointed on another vast salary ...gives one a warm and fuzzy feeling
John Moylan
Tuesday 25th February 2020 at 3:59 pm
This is getting beyond a joke. Is no one speaking up for us tax payers? Every year there is an increase and every increase is well above the rate of inflation. But we are never asked if we want to pay the increase and we are never asked if we approve of the meddling schemes that the Council keep thinking up. This ridiculous waste food bin, as a prime example. Why weren't we ever asked if we wanted it, need it and are prepared to use our money to fund it?

How about reducint Council Tax, cutting back on 'services' to those that are absolutely necessary and cutting staff, wages and pension contributions to the bone. Once that has been done then come back and ask for more money.
Duncan Herald
Thursday 5th March 2020 at 12:18 pm
Reminds me of something someone (an American?) once said: don't bring me reasons why we can't, bring me ways that we can.

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