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Thursday 26 February 2015

Cheshire East set to freeze Council Tax for the next two years


Cheshire East Council is planning to freeze Council Tax for the next TWO years.

The local authority is the first in the country to announce this landmark move.

The announcement made today (February 26) by Council Leader Councillor Michael Jones would mean no increase for six consecutive years.

The authority today voted to freeze Council Tax for the fifth year running for 2015/16        – while increasing spending on services for vulnerable adults and boosting investment on roads and infrastructure.

Cllr Jones also revealed the Council’s intention not to increase Council Tax in 2016/17.

The announcement comes despite the continued reductions in government grants and increasing cost pressures on councils.

Cheshire East Council Leader Councillor Michael Jones said: “This is the best budget in the North West and one of the strongest in the UK.

“We don’t just want to freeze Council Tax for a fifth consecutive year next year – we want to keep people’s bills at their current level until 2017.

“Cheshire East Council is demonstrating once again how local authorities can cut costs via innovative ways of working and a listening approach that puts residents first.

“We care about the pounds, the pennies and the people. And I am delighted and proud that there will be no Council Tax increase for our residents for a fifth consecutive year, despite having our revenue support grant from central government cut by £9.66m or almost 20 per cent.

“However, we want to go further and continue that freeze up to 2017 – attracting people, jobs and business into Cheshire East and bolstering its position as the ‘best place to live’ in the North West, with a strong and resilient economy.”

The Cheshire East Band D Council Tax will remain unchanged at £1,216.34.

The budget and financial reports voted through by full Council today show that medium-term finances are ‘in great shape’ and set to generate a small budget surplus, for a third year running, of about £0.5m in 2014/15.

A balanced budget, low unemployment and increased levels of investment in major capital projects across Cheshire East confirm that the Council is working innovatively to deliver excellent services and great value for money for local taxpayers.

Annual Council spending is more than £750m, with a proposed balanced net revenue budget of £264.7m for 2015/16.

This includes meeting a target net saving of £7.7m without compromising key services. The Council has achieved permanent savings of £5m in management costs alone over the past two years.

Under the Council’s medium-term financial strategy (2015-18) additional spending on key frontline services is also earmarked – with £6.5m extra for highways improvements and £1m extra spending for adult social care.

An ambitious capital programme also plans £0.5 billion of investment over three years – our biggest ever.

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.

The projected £13m funding gap in the Council’s finances for 2016/17 will be closed by some prudent activities already under way. Potential ways to meet the funding include:

● £3.4m from money set aside for business rates appeals, which have been settled;

● £1m expected from growth in the business rates tax base and from shared benefits of collaboration with Greater Manchester;

● £1m from new jobs and new homes that are increasing the Council Tax base;

● £2m return on the invest to save schemes in the capital budget;

● £2.2m from government grants, such as the New Homes Bonus scheme;

● £1.7m from eliminating growth through efficiency savings of 0.7 per cent; and

● £2m from reducing the impact of inflation on the Council’s budget.

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