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Monday, 15 October 2018

Cheshire East ‘on track to deliver balanced budget’

Cheshire East Council is on track to deliver a balanced budget – despite in-year pressures on finances.

A report to the council’s cabinet on Tuesday, 9 October outlines how the authority is managing resources to provide value-for-money services during 2018/19 and making good progress towards achieving the priorities of its corporate plan.

Alex Thompson, head of finance and performance said: “Local government is dealing with significant, ongoing financial challenges. Increasing demand, rising costs and reduced government grant is creating significant pressures on resources.

“The council’s response focuses on increasing efficiency and productivity to enable us to deliver an appropriate level of sustainable services.

“Demand for services is high. This is particularly linked to an increase in population but also changes in demographics, with increasing numbers of people who are living with more complex needs.”

This demand has resulted in revenue pressures of a £5.3m projected end-of-year overspend (two per cent) against a budget of £269.5m.

Councillor Paul Bates, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for finance and communications, said: “Robust action is being taken across the authority to mitigate this position and return the budget to a balanced position – while still protecting general financial reserves – as we have successfully done in previous years.

“This council has maintained sound finances, while protecting its quality key services despite a tough financial climate for councils.

“Children and families services, like other services across the council, are working in a very challenging environment.  We will be looking for savings that are realistic and achievable.

“However, we have already shown that we can achieve a lot in a challenging financial environment, with the third lowest level of NEETs in the country, fantastic results in our schools from key stage two to A-levels and securing funding for key childcare and education projects.

“The challenges facing adult social care are well-documented.  This report shows that we are working effectively with health partners to improve outcomes for those who need our support, despite the financial challenge.

“For example, we have worked hard and been successful in reducing delayed transfers of care, but there are now new expectations around this that we must work even harder and even smarter to meet.

“Against this challenging financial backdrop, it is pleasing to note that the council has continued to perform strongly, delivering positive outcomes in each of the six priority areas identified by the corporate plan.”

At mid year 2018/19, examples of good performance include:

● The visitor economy hit a record high of £921m a year;

● High pass rates for Key Stage tests, GCSE and A-level exams;

● Around 95 per cent of major planning applications and 90 per cent of non-major applications were achieved within timescales;

● The council has achieved Green Flag awards for eight of its outstanding parks;

● 209 new affordable homes were delivered in the first quarter year;

● 17 community venues have celebrated becoming council supported ‘connected communities’ centres;

● A four per cent increase in attendances at the council’s leisure facilities.

Cheshire East Council is the third-largest unitary authority in the North West and is responsible for around 500 services, supporting more than 370,000 local residents and more than 18,500 businesses. Gross annual spending by the council is c£700m.

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