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Friday 21 February 2020

Cheshire East budget boosts spending on key services and provides value for money for residents

Cheshire East Council has agreed a balanced budget to protect key frontline services and deliver value for money for residents.

A vote by full council on Thursday 20 February, backed several key financial reports that deliver a balanced budget for 2020-21. It protects key frontline services and delivers on the authority’s strategic priorities.

The council voted to spend an additional half a billion pounds on capital schemes over the next four years, including £257m on the local highway network. 

Of this, £185m relates to major projects (including the Congleton Link Road and Poynton Relief Road), £0.5m on car parking projects and £71m on other highway works, which includes £40m for improving the condition of the network.

In 2020/2021 the council will also increase spending on adult social care by around £8m (from £110m to £118m) to meet increasing demand and the growing number of older people and increase spending on education and protecting vulnerable and cared for children by £4m (up from £59m to £63m). We are also increasing spending on health, and the environment.

To support the increase in budgets, Council tax will increase by 3.99 per cent in 2020-21. A Band D property bill will rise from £1,446.27 to £1,503.98 – an increase of about £1 per week for an average household.

Importantly, two per cent of the tax rise is ringfenced to boost adult social care services for vulnerable and older people.

Following more than two months’ of public consultation, the council considered comments from a range of people and the overall budget was increased, specifically in children’s services, to reflect the feedback received.

Following consultation, the revenue budget will be balanced for 2020-21 with net revenue spending of £301m and total capital investment of £472m over the next four years.

Councillor Amanda Stott, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for finance, IT and communications, said: “Firstly I’d like to thank residents, staff, partners, businesses and all members for their feedback during the consultation period. I want to reassure people that we have listened and taken on board your many suggestions and comments.

“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.”

Councillor Sam Corcoran, leader of Cheshire East Council, 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. 

“Recent events, both locally and around the world, show us how seriously we need to adjust our way of life and here, at Cheshire East Council, we will be doing our bit to cut carbon emissions and steer the council towards a carbon-neutral position by 2025. The medium term financial strategy, approved at today’s council meeting, allocates more than £1.5m towards delivering the council’s environmental objectives.

“As a council, we are determined to deliver for local residents and to do everything we can to maintain Cheshire East as one of the best places in the North West to live, work, visit and do business.”

Councillor Craig Browne, deputy leader of Cheshire East Council, said: “Our priorities will always be focused on our residents and the safeguarding and protection of our most vulnerable adults and children. More than 60 per cent of our revenue budget is spent on ‘people’ services.

“Alongside this, we will continue with our extensive programme to deliver sustainable economic growth, coupled with a significant infrastructure programme, including major highways schemes and the regeneration of Crewe and Macclesfield.”

Cheshire East Council is the third-largest unitary authority in the North West, delivering around 500 services and supporting more than 375,000 local residents with an annual turnover of more than £700m.

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