Barlow's Beef: When is a 'saving' not a 'saving'


Do you remember those childish riddles we loved as kids? When is a door not a door etc.? I was reminded of them when I saw this week's statement from Cheshire East proposing a five per cent increase in Council Tax to make 'savings' of £100M in the next three years.

When is a 'saving' not a 'saving'? This riddle would not fool any kid beyond the reception class and it won't fool taxpayers. When Kellogg's put up the price of corn flakes they don't call it a 'saving' they call it a price increase.

In most companies 'savings' are achieved by reducing costs and overheads. Not so Cheshire East who seem to regard increasing Council Tax as some kind of cost control exercise.

In February 2015 CEC made this statement via their own website:

"Cheshire East is planning to freeze Council Tax for the next two years – while increasing spending on services for vulnerable adults and boosting investment on roads and infrastructure.

The authority today (February 26) voted to freeze Council Tax for a fifth year running in 2015/16.

Cheshire East Council Leader Michael Jones also revealed the authority's intention not to increase Council Tax in 2016/17

Government grants have reduced substantially since 2009, leaving many local authorities facing 'gaping holes' in their accounts. Councils have also taken on more responsibilities, such as public health and Council Tax support.

But Cheshire East Council has responded swiftly and robustly.

With no new planned borrowing in 2015/16 and external debt being reduced by a further £8.5m, Cheshire East now has less debt than it did when it was created as a unitary authority in 2009."

So what went wrong? How did a council that had no need to increase council tax in 2016/17 claiming their finances were in better shape than ever suddenly need an increase 250 per cent above inflation?

We didn't hear a peep about budgetary shortfalls from CEC when they were doling out outrageous pay-offs for senior mangers. A mite odd don't you think that a council so free with it's largesse to departing executives should suddenly be handing round the begging bowl.

Equally baffling are CEC statements justifying this proposed increase.

"We will maintain a focus on the 'quality of place' in the borough, which will enable our economy to grow."

Does anyone outside of the council chamber have any idea what that actually means?

It would be quite funny if it wasn't from the Leader of the Council spending the money.

Margaret Thatcher famously said, "The problem with socialism is it eventually runs out of other people's money (to spend)."

I doubt she imagined it would be true of a Tory council.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of

Photo: Councillor Rachel Bailey, leader of Cheshire East Council.

Barlows Beef, Vic Barlow


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

Charlotte Peters Rock
Tuesday 7th February 2017 at 3:27 pm
Local Authorities really should not be acting in a party political way. They hava duty to aid and protect their electorate. They have a duty to ensure that there is no bullying, no removal of vital services, no lying or twisting of the truth.

I leave it to the electorate to decide how happy it is with its politically enforcing Cheshire East Council, which on the one hand is publicly noted for throwing money away, and on the other, has shut down most (if not all?) day and overnight respite care, is permanently threatening to close other care facilities, has sold off its caring duties to commercial enterprises, which have no overarching 'duty of care', but only the overwhelming need for profit.

Couple that with Cheshire East Council's knowledge that the recently enforced NHS England 'bottom line' for NHS services is now 'finance' rather than 'health' and it can readily be seen that many people will be having not only the stated 'changes' in NHS and public care, but an absolute dearth of any care.. yet with our money still leaching out to the profit-making sector.

The pity of it that Cheshire East council is so overwhelmingly Conservative. A more balanced Council make up might not be so rashly acting against local need. This 'boss class' group has been voted in by so many people who are currently being harmed by its actions. What were voters thinking of?
Sam Corcoran
Tuesday 7th February 2017 at 7:24 pm
In February 2015 when the then Leader Michael Jones revealed the authority's intention not to increase Council Tax in 2016/17 I said "2016/17 is going to be a difficult budget and we do not know what the government freeze grant will be, so I consider it irresponsible to give a commitment now to freeze council tax in 2016/17. This is ideological electioneering."
So it has proved as Council Tax WAS increased in 2016/17, but the increase was only announced after the election.
Now on a national level, the widely respected Institute for Fiscal Studies says that the tax burden under the Tories will be the highest since 1986
At least Labour are honest about their intentions on tax and say how they would pay for things (an increase in the top rate of tax to 50% and increases to corporation tax). The Tories have cut corporation tax for large companies from 28% to 18% and have cut capital gains tax for higher rate taxpayers from 40% to 20%.
Elizabeth Mooney
Thursday 9th February 2017 at 4:30 pm
The truth is that none of them have a clueat the moment, we live in an age of fiscal irresponsibility. Look at the mess Greece is in at the moment , (and we were told that Alexis Tsipras was a genius). And back to our own corner of the world, Cheshire East have historically made some big payoffs in the past and we the council tax payers are merely the "gift that keeps on giving"....