Barlow's Beef: When is a 'saving' not a 'saving'


Do you remember those childish riddles we loved as kids? When is a door not a door etc.? I was reminded of them when I saw this week's statement from Cheshire East proposing a five per cent increase in Council Tax to make 'savings' of £100M in the next three years.

When is a 'saving' not a 'saving'? This riddle would not fool any kid beyond the reception class and it won't fool taxpayers. When Kellogg's put up the price of corn flakes they don't call it a 'saving' they call it a price increase.

In most companies 'savings' are achieved by reducing costs and overheads. Not so Cheshire East who seem to regard increasing Council Tax as some kind of cost control exercise.

In February 2015 CEC made this statement via their own website:

"Cheshire East is planning to freeze Council Tax for the next two years – while increasing spending on services for vulnerable adults and boosting investment on roads and infrastructure.

The authority today (February 26) voted to freeze Council Tax for a fifth year running in 2015/16.

Cheshire East Council Leader Michael Jones also revealed the authority's intention not to increase Council Tax in 2016/17

Government grants have reduced substantially since 2009, leaving many local authorities facing 'gaping holes' in their accounts. Councils have also taken on more responsibilities, such as public health and Council Tax support.

But Cheshire East Council has responded swiftly and robustly.

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."

So what went wrong? How did a council that had no need to increase council tax in 2016/17 claiming their finances were in better shape than ever suddenly need an increase 250 per cent above inflation?

We didn't hear a peep about budgetary shortfalls from CEC when they were doling out outrageous pay-offs for senior mangers. A mite odd don't you think that a council so free with it's largesse to departing executives should suddenly be handing round the begging bowl.

Equally baffling are CEC statements justifying this proposed increase.

"We will maintain a focus on the 'quality of place' in the borough, which will enable our economy to grow."

Does anyone outside of the council chamber have any idea what that actually means?

It would be quite funny if it wasn't from the Leader of the Council spending the money.

Margaret Thatcher famously said, "The problem with socialism is it eventually runs out of other people's money (to spend)."

I doubt she imagined it would be true of a Tory council.

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

Photo: Councillor Rachel Bailey, leader of Cheshire East Council.

Barlows Beef, Vic Barlow


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

Philip Lloyd
Tuesday 7th February 2017 at 3:08 pm
When will people wake up and only vote for good independent candidates. Party politics has no place in local government !!
Mark Goldsmith
Wednesday 8th February 2017 at 8:28 am
Barlow: why have they increased our tax by 5%?

Because they can...

No matter how inept they are with our money, enough people keep voting them back in.

Only when we do something different with our vote will any real change happen.
Bob Bracegirdle
Wednesday 8th February 2017 at 6:40 pm
Then stop talking and vote different. Mind you, you'll still be under the Westminster cosh. They run the real budget.
Simon Worthington
Thursday 9th February 2017 at 8:51 am
Greedy central government (check their tax take increase over recent years) coupled with overspending and incompetetent councils are bleeding us dry. Time to continue the job and oust them all.
Chris Boothman
Friday 10th February 2017 at 6:10 pm
Cheshire East Council just insult our intelligence with their every action. You can blame central government or the local council, it's all the same thing, financial mismanagement and slight of hand. I see very little return on my council tax payments already and a 5% increase is just ridiculous in the name of saving money. In the past twenty years people may say I wasted my vote supporting parties with no hope of winning CEC, but at least my conscience is clear.
Elaine Napier
Wednesday 15th February 2017 at 10:36 pm
Vic Barlow's comments on the outrageous payments made by Cheshire East Council to all those members of staff who were paid off, bought off or generally had their mouths stuffed with taxpayers' money, remind me that I'd love the Council to issue a statement explaining precisely how much they have spent in this way in the past eight years.

They could add a postscript explaining how much they frittered away on the Lyme Green Waste Site, its secret report, and all that Physiofit contract stuff.

I'd also like to hear how much longer the police enquiry into Michael Jones' alleged misconduct in public office is going to take.

As the current Leader of the Council, perhaps Ms Bailey would find herself in a position to expedite the clear publication of this information.

Elaine Napier