Cheshire East Council issued its Pre-Budget Consultation in November 2016, setting out proposals to enable them to save £94m during the three year period from 2017 to 2020.
Residents, councillors, businesses, schools, unions and council staff have until 10th January 2017 to have their say on the budget proposals.
The Council needs to save nearly £100m in order to balance the books over the next three years because, like most councils, it is facing significant reductions in funding from central government whilst facing increasing demand from those who need support from our social care services.
The proposals in the consultation document assume Council Tax will increase by up to 3.99% each year - this follows last April's 3.75% increase after five years of Council Tax freeze. The potential additional income from this assumption would be £45.1m, leaving a requirement to make savings of £49m from changes and efficiencies.
By 2020 the Council is expected to have no reliance at all on general funding from Central Government. To put this into context £40m of funding was received in 2015/16.
Budget forecasts in February 2016 highlighted potential deficits of £8.9m, £13.5m and £13.6m over the next three years. This report updates these forecasts to demonstrate how a balanced position can be achieved.
The Executive of the Council have produced a set of proposals to balance the finances of the Council for the period 1st April 2017 through to 31st March 2020. This document provides details of each proposed change to the Council's existing budget, along with options that were considered but are not currently being recommended.
Cllr Peter Groves, Finance and Assets Portfolio Holder, said "The proposals include the option to increase Council Tax by up to 3.99% each year. Overall this deals with less than half of the potential funding shortfall. Importantly 2% of the potential Council Tax increase will be dedicated to meet the rising costs in Adult Social Care. This approach could add up to £1 per week to the average household Council Tax bill each year. This is a change from previous policies that have frozen Council Tax, but the reductions in government grant and ongoing care cost pressures make this an appropriate proposal at this stage.
"This report still contains significant ambition, driven by the desire to continue to improve the economic well being of our residents. New infrastructure projects will open up opportunities for businesses and create jobs, and money is proposed for our main town centres too."
The documents stretches to over 100 pages and includes dozens of proposals for both saving money and making additional investments.
These include ceasing the Council Tax Support Grant in 2017. Since 2013/14 Cheshire East Council has provided compensation to each eligible Town and Parish Council for the reduction in tax base following the introduction of the council tax support scheme. This grant has been reduced annually in line with overall reductions to Cheshire East Council's general government grant, with an agreement that it will cease in 2017. This will generate savings of £150,000 a year for the next 3 years.
The Council proposes to increase the level of parking enforcement by recruiting ten additional Civil Enforcement Officers which would potentially generate additional surplus revenue of £100,000 per annum. Plus increase car parking charges to generate an additional £2m over the next three years.
Whilst changes to the subsidised bus service could save £1,576,000 in both 2018/9 and 2019/20. The Council gives revenue support to local bus services to enable services to be provided which would not otherwise be provided by commercial operators. The Council is proposing a review of the criteria it uses to determine the level of support to local bus services.
Additionally, £300,000 could be saved over the next 3 years by reducing the level of winter services and £150,000 by reducing highway tree maintenance.
By reviewing the way they work with the current school transport provider, Transport Service Solutions, it is proposed that savings of £2,150,000 could be made of retry years with a more cost effective Children's Services transport solution.
If the Local Growth Fund (Government Grant) bid is successful, match funding of £0.5m from the Council would unlock £2.67m of funding for walking and cycling routes in Crewe, Nantwich and Wilmslow to overcome access barriers to key employment sites.
Environmental proposals to save money include reducing routine maintenance of the highway network to save £3,570,000 over three years and reducing highways frontline staff and community teams to save £1,950,000 during the same period.
Cheshire East Cabinet decided in December 2015 to move from in-house delivery of services, currently provided by Care4CE, to commission all care services from the broader care sector - providing savings of £8.1m between 2017 and 2020.
The Council currently has over 700 live contracts with an estimated three year spend of £700m, it intends to review all of these in order to achieve savings of £8.6m over three years. Additionally by setting up digital customer services, through their website, the Council is proposing to save nearly £3m from 2018 to 2020.
Another proposal is to create a new investment portfolio to deliver a long term and sustainable income to the Council through investing £12.5m in property over the next three years.
The Cheshire East Council Pre-Budget Consultation 2017/2020 can be accessed via the Cheshire East Council website. It contains a number of questions, providing people with an opportunity to give feedback on the various proposals.
You can also send any comments, queries or other responses, such as alternative areas for savings by email - all responses will be captured and reported to Cabinet Members and Council.
When submitting a response or comment, please also include your name, organisation (if applicable) and contact details.
The consultation ends on 10th January 2017. The budget will then be considered by all Council members at a Full Council meeting on Thursday, 23rd February 2017.