Residents face 3.99% tax hike as councillors approve budget

Householders in South Cheshire will pay their local authority an average of £57.71 more in council tax next year following the approval of its budget.

Elected members at Cheshire East Council voted through the medium term financial strategy, which includes a 3.99 per cent tax hike for 2020/21.

The council tax rise, which includes two per cent ring-fenced for adult social care, will see the amount owed by Band D households increase from £1,446.27 to £1,503.98 – an increase of about £1 per week.

Taking into account fire, police and parish council precepts, the average Band D property will have an overall council tax bill of £1,851.05.

The Labour and independent-run authority will increase the amount it spends on adult social care from £110 million to £118 million, while children’s social care spending will rise from £59 million to £63 million.

Budget cuts include saving £280,000 through a review of transport within children’s services, and changes to waste collection routes and vehicles relating to a new composting facility, which will save £400,000.

An additional £325,000 in rent is expected to come from the council’s investment portfolio, with £177,000 coming from a review of council car parks, rising to £1.5 million by 2023/24. The council will be spending £350,000 on new pay and display machines next year.

Councillor Amanda Stott,  cabinet member for finance, IT and communications, said the authority had taken on board suggestions made during the public consultation on the budget.

She added: “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.”

Council leader Sam Corcoran 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.”

Cheshire East leader Sam Corcoran
(Image: Matt Jackson/Stoke Sentinel)

Thirty-nine councillors voted in favour of the budget, with 33 abstaining. Forty-four voted to approve the council tax rise, with 28 abstaining.

Opposition groups raised some concerns with the budget during the meeting, particularly around what would happen in future years.

Conservative group leader Janet Clowes said: “We welcome the fact that this document provides a balanced budget for 2020/21. However, as has been said before today, at other cabinet meetings and at scrutiny meetings, it is an annual budget, and thus a vulnerable budget, in that there is little evidence of forward planning for pressures that can reasonably be anticipated in years two, three and four.

“This is also concerning, as it is acknowledged that the council has retained low levels of reserve, should such pressures come forward earlier than expected.”

Lib Dem leader Rod Fletcher said: “We do still have concerns over the robustness of this budget, but there are improvements. However, we do accept the fact that the Labour and independent administration has been working within a very difficult straitjacket due to previous poor financial use of resources by this council.”

The budget also includes nearly half-a-billion pounds in additional capital spending over the next four years, with £257 million set to be spent on highways.

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