Barlow's Beef: More great 'savings' from Cheshire East


Great news, folks. Cheshire East has daft proposals (sorry...draft proposals) to illustrate how they can save £100M over the next three years. Sounds good eh?

They could start by ceasing their constant restructuring or not doling out large compensation packages to departing execs. Giving up on the delusion they can run independent commercial ventures that lose money at the speed of light would help considerably.
And maybe, just maybe becoming more competent in the execution of their primary duties so that a job costing £1K doesn't require £5K's worth of administration.

CEC however, propose to meet their 'saving' target through a mix of tax increases and changing its service offer. Let me interpret: The first 'saving' will be an increase in property tax by 3.99 per cent.

Now I've done some research on this and the most common definition of 'saving' is 'avoiding the need to use up or spend money or resources.' Nowhere have I read that 'saving' means 'to increase prices.' Maybe I missed that?

Next comes 'changing its service offer'. You don't think they mean 'reducing' services do you? I'm not sure how far we can go down this road. We're already driving around in the dark and bouncing over potholes. What next turn off all heating in schools and public buildings or emptying our own wheelie bins?

If they shortened the length of the fancy titles they use they could probably save a few grand on nameplates. How about making timely decisions and reducing the crazy length of time employees spend on 'garden leave' while CEC prevaricate and dither?

Increasing taxes and cutting services is simply the line of least resistance while changing council culture and doing more for less requires 'tough management' and is therefore much harder.

A major area that could produce serious reductions in costs is the pitiful negotiating of contracts. I am frequently advised by suppliers and contractors that the toughest part of supplying CEC is getting your company name on the Approved List.

From thereon it appears negotiations are relatively relaxed. This would be the first area for any commercial organisation to strengthen. It takes courage to make bold decisions and raising council tax is an easy way out.

Easy Jet don't make 'savings' by upping their prices or landing 100 miles short of their destination. They do it by becoming more efficient. An alien concept for Cheshire East but one their 'customers' would approve.

Maybe we can all leave with a compo package?

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of

Barlow's Beef, Vic Barlow


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Manuel Golding
Tuesday 15th November 2016 at 10:04 am
Wow!. Our wonderful borough council is actually going to make savings over 3 years in the region of £100 million, i.e £33.33 million per year.
If it is making such gigantic savings (and more can be found by adopting more "cost saving" schemes such a those Vic has referred to plus a wholesale change in its culture), then will someone explain just why this council is increasing its council tax charge?
Surely the council should, indeed must, pass such savings to its tax payers.
Otherwise it will be seen as playing a game of empty, meaningless rhetoric, again.
Pete Taylor
Tuesday 15th November 2016 at 11:12 am
I am disappointed yet again at the negative portrayal of Cheshire East Council for no good cause.
Remember who said that?
Please leave Hilda alone, or I'll have to tell on you.

Last night, as I was driving in pitch darkness along the By-pass towards Handforth, I was struck by the magnificent "saving" that CEC had made by spending "another" £9.5M on LED lighting units..... and then not turning them on. I hope that no-one ever runs into one of those lamp-posts in the dark.
Nick Jones
Tuesday 15th November 2016 at 11:29 am
Finding unbiased accurate information for fact checking and reasonable investigation to untangle some of these random numbers has become progressively more difficult, Facts are ‘tricky things’ on a good day … and the science of 'spinning' unreliable facts from figures is undoubtedly a skill well versed by CEC .. but briefing stats to a group who are then told to recite them like parrots, is almost akin to ‘Moonies’ cult conditioning.. Savings could be made at the stoke of a pen by merging the 2 halves of this small county back together, immediately reducing duplication and bureaucracy… But Instead of talking about it.. they need to actually get on with it.. True savings wouldn’t result in a 4% council tax rise.. or applying the same logic, should that be a 4 % saving ?
Tuesday 15th November 2016 at 3:58 pm
Cheshire East seem to use a completely different dictionary to me. To me "saving" means, "to avoid spending money". For example, if I was "saving" I would not go out and purchase a speculative property. Cheshire East, on the other hand, is proposing to "save" by purchasing a speculative property in Crewe. The meeting for 21st November includes a report from "The Executive Director of Place". The subject of the agenda item is the "Strategic Acquisition at Weston Rd, Crewe". The Portfolio holder is Councillor Don Stockton. It seems that Cheshire East has "provisionally agreed terms" with the Ministry of Defence. Namely to pay £750,000 for the site at the former Army Reserve Centre. The reason for this "proposed" purchase is that it is "adjacent to the Council's Business Generation Centre", it might be a potential source of revenue in the future and it will support "economic growth". Amazingly, the agenda item states that the ward affected is "Crewe East". Now this site might lie in Crewe East but choosing to spend money that the Council claim they don't have affects all words in the borough. At the end of the agenda the crux of the matter is actually stated; "The Council will incorporate the site into its Scope House Operation and Management". So there we have it. More land acquired by Cheshire East on an industrial estate which it hopes to "rent out".
Clive Cooksey
Wednesday 16th November 2016 at 10:37 pm
Yet another example of not being able to run a booze up in a brewery!
Pete Taylor
Thursday 17th November 2016 at 7:50 pm
Pedestrian access to Fulshaw Park impossible again today due to blocked gullies causing flooding. Despite having reported this several times to CEC Highways (outsourced by Cllr Menlove) and being given excuses like it is not dangerous or a priority and despite them saying that all the CEC gullies on Knutsford Road would be emptied in October they managed to miss these two grids again and they are blocked to the top.
A while back local CEC Cllr. Menlove said he would get this sorted out.
Peter Evans
Thursday 17th November 2016 at 9:43 pm
Totally agree with Vic and others here. Savings means spending less and focusing spending on things that have value and benefit to the user/ customer (in this case, us - the citizens are the consumers of council services.
Vic is right - sort out procurement and contracting processes, make decisions faster and develop contracts that hold contractors to sensible account. And that doesn't mean simply being more "hard nosed" (that's appropriate for paper clips only), it means being more intelligent and forming win:win relationships and partnerships, underwritten by solid guiding contracts. It does not mean sending goodness knows how long coming up with a "policy" that potential suppliers have to self certify that they pay their taxes properly (that is PR or window dressing at best).
It also means reducing cost by removing inefficiency and / or adopting new ways of doing things. For example, increase the amount of council services that are available on line, with associated simplification of back office processes (removing unnecessary multiple human handling of an issue - all very easy to do, if you apply the political will). This enables CEC to reduce staff needed to sit in call centres or in public facing offices - where value isn't directly added to "service delivery" (e.g emptying bins, teaching children or providing social care to old people).
Policy developers and analysts do not directly add to service delivery and should therefore be a lean as possible. These are the most wasteful areas - and are never sythered due largely to the self interest of the senior decision makers... who in CEC at least are protected by premier league beating compensation packages (funded by our council tax and to the detriment of serving the people that CEC exists to serve.
If CEC was a business, it simply would no longer exist. Think Philip Green...
Gill Coakley
Sunday 20th November 2016 at 8:26 pm
And more pointless spending about to commence on replacing the already pointless fence around the lake on Lindow Common. To protect us from the non existant blue green algae and the hoards of water voles that are apparently immune to it.