Cheshire East Council is asking residents for views on the council's budget for the next financial year.
The council propose an annual council tax increase of 1.99 per cent for the next four years. As well as this, the government are expecting councils to increase council tax by a further 1 per cent to contribute to adult social care, taking it to an annual 2.99 per cent increase.
The council delivers many day-to-day services – including providing vital support to children and adults who need help, emptying the bins and managing the highways. It also delivers a range of projects, include becoming carbon neutral by 2025, building new schools and roads, information and digital technology projects and regenerating our town centres. The total value of these projects over the next four years is almost £400million.
The council's budget consultation sets out service proposals and financial plans for the period from 1 April 2022 through to 31 March 2023.
The council is responsible for managing a yearly spend of around £700million with an annual net revenue budget of approximately £321million, which is equal to around £16 per week for every resident living in the borough. The budget is funded from the council taxes paid by households and businesses, and some general government grants.
Councillor Amanda Stott, Cheshire East Council chair for the sub-finance committee, said: "The financial impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has been huge. The council, like every other local authority, is having to deal with unprecedented financial pressures due to increasing demand particularly in social care and our statutory duties to protect our most vulnerable residents.
"The proposals show a balanced four-year budget to deliver the council's corporate plan priorities. It also outlines significant financial challenges that the council must tackle over the next year, including rapidly rising demand and costs for adult social care and those that are a result of the ongoing pandemic.
"Council tax only raises around one third of the money needed to fund the hundreds of local services we provide across Cheshire East.
"Council tax thresholds will remain at similar levels to recent years, with the increases remaining at 1.99 per cent. There is also an expectation from government that some demand growth in adult social care will be funded by a further annual precept of 1 per cent.
"Final confirmation of the threshold limits will be announced by government in December but for the purpose of presenting these budget estimates we have increased council tax in each year by 2.99 per cent to manage ongoing demand for services.
"The council wants to listen to all feedback on this consultation before coming to any final recommendation about how best to balance the funding we receive from government and locally raised income, with the rising demand for the services we deliver.
"Our draft budget prioritises critical frontline services and economic investment and, our ongoing recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic. We will continue to redesign and transform some services to ensure maximum efficiency while protecting the most vulnerable, supporting our businesses and growing our local economy through this time of unprecedented financial challenge.
"I would strongly urge everyone to play their part, now more than ever before. We need to hear your views on our draft budget proposals, so we get an understanding of the priorities and aspirations for our services and local community."
The council is inviting opinions and views from residents, businesses, councillors, staff, town and parish councils, local community groups and other stakeholders. The feedback received will be used to inform the budget setting process.
To have your say and take part in our budget consultation, go to: www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/BudgetEngagement
The budget consultation runs until 4 January 2022.
Following the consultation and after feedback has been considered, budget proposals will be refined and updated before the final budget is agreed by full council on 24 February 2022.
Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.
CE Council is failing in so many “measurable” areas and bleating about the cost of Adult Social Care and reducing Carbon by 2025.
Of course these are hugely important projects- but largely immeasurable in terms of cost / benefit.
I think that it’s time that CE Council we’re merged with Cheshire West ( if they’d take us on) so that we, the cash cow, can rest our teets a while before the next round of public sector sucklers come demanding more.
Speaking of value for money...I called the Council repeatedly after storms 10 years ago left a section of Heyes lane covered with fallen boughs and tree debris. I pointed out the danger of the large untended trees on the left hand side coming out of the village immediately after the Davie Lane junction. The Council have a duty of care and should have alerted the respective owners of the 2 big houses there, nothing was done.( If owners refuse to check the safety of trees bordering a highway they can be bought to book and charged for essential remedial work by the Council). Last night a huge tree came down across the toad, thus blocking it and almost destroying a home (the car was not so lucky). Thank God no one was killed. This did not need to happen, trees are not all "sacred" they need tending (as they do on the Continent) or things get dangerous.
In order to put this in context, I will try to explain things in a little more detail.
In 2013/14, Cheshire East Council's revenue budget was £276.7m and by 2022/23 this is proposed to increase to £321.2m (a rise of 16% over the nine year period, or a little under 2% each year). Why then, have receipts from Council Tax risen so much faster, by £87.9m, or 53% over the same period?
The answer lies in the fact that in 2013/14, Cheshire East Council was receiving £55.9m from central government through the Revenue Support Grant; however, by 2018/19 this had reduced to £5.4m and to zero from 2019/20 onwards. Of the additonal £87.9m raised through Council Tax therefore, almost two-thirds (£55.9m) is just replacing lost income.
The answer also lies in the fact that Cheshire East Council is particularly disadvantaged by the formula used to calculate Business Rates Retention, which means that for every £1 paid by businesses in Cheshire East only 28p stays with the Council and the other 72p is passported straight to Westminster (other areas, such as Liverpool, fare much better).
This means that, out of necessity, the proportion of the Council's budget which is funded directly by Council Tax has risen from 60% in 2013/14 to a projected 79% in 2022/23 (an increase of almost a third). Over this time, government policy has clearly shifted away from raising funds nationally, to raising them locally to pay for local services.
I do not comment on whether this policy of preferring to raise funds locally rather than nationally is right or wrong, but simply highlight that it lies behind the decision to allow local authorities to levy an extra 1% Adult Social Care Precept to meet the growing costs of these statutory, demand-led services.
I hope this helps.