Cheshire East Council proposes to increase council tax by 4.99%

Cheshire East Council has published the documents that set out spending plans and priorities for the organisation over the next four years, including proposals for investment, savings and raising council tax by 4.99 per cent

Cheshire East's cabinet will discuss the plans at their meeting on 2nd February and will make recommendations to a meeting of full council on 17th February when the documents will be considered for formal approval.

The documents, initially published in draft last year, have been amended as a result of a public consultation and in the light of the ever-developing Covid-19 pandemic and the changing financial position for the council. This follows confirmation of a one-year financial settlement for councils by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the spending review in December.

These announcements included proposals to increase the spending power of local councils largely comprising of council tax increases, with confirmation of the permitted level of council tax increase for 2021/22 of 4.99 per cent.

Councillor Amanda Stott, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for finance, said, "These are unprecedented times. This budget has been one of the most challenging to prepare. The two documents published today set out our plans for the next four years, giving us much-needed focus and direction at a time of great uncertainty and change in the face of the pandemic.

"We have listened to your feedback and responded to the changing situation to propose a balanced budget for the next four years. I am pleased that this is the first time ever we have put forward a balanced budget for a four-year period. We have also produced an ambitious corporate plan setting out our priorities for the same period.

"We are increasing our spending in people-based services by more than £12 million over the next four years. This will help to modernise and meet the demand for services such as social care, mental health and young people with additional needs.

"The council will also manage capital investments of £0.4 billion over the next four years on roads, schools, growth and enterprise and critical ICT services.

"At the same time, we are seeing a further reduction in government grant funding. We are balancing this with a mixture of cost savings and efficiencies, increased income from council tax, and making sure that we recover costs for the services for which we charge directly.

"In our draft consultation MTFS, we reluctantly included proposals for a number of significant changes to services. During the consultation process we have been able to analyse the government spending review and listen to feedback on our proposals from our residents and partners. We have been able to re-evaluate our proposals in the context of the ongoing pandemic and the value people place on our key services.

"Savings in our children's services have been significantly reduced and we will provide funding to explore opportunities to significantly review our approach to services for young people. We will also fund our commitment to move towards being a carbon neutral council by 2025.

"Other savings, we think, need more time to plan to achieve the priorities of the corporate plan in a post-Covid environment, so we have adjusted the budget to reflect that too. This is affordable by retaining some difficult but achievable savings, in addition to raising council tax, in line with government expectations, by 4.99 per cent."

Councillor Stott added: "Councils face very difficult choices and must strike a balance between protecting vital local services and keeping council tax rises to a minimum. We know that the proposed 4.99 per cent increase in council tax for 2021/22 will be a concern for many residents.

"This equates to about £1 per week for the average household. We are looking to reduce the impact of this rise on lower income households through changes to our council tax support scheme. Beyond 2021/22 we are proposing smaller increases in council tax of 1.99 per cent.

"This is part of a four-year balanced strategy, reflecting preferences voiced through consultation responses, of increasing council tax, implementing service efficiencies and increasing income from fees and charges. This approach will allow us to maintain sustainable services, giving greater financial certainty and retaining our commitment to carbon reduction.

"As the pandemic continues, and we look beyond to the council's role in helping the borough, its businesses, communities and residents recover, it is essential that we put the council onto a secure financial footing and have a clear vision from which to build."

The medium-term financial strategy and corporate plan are published with the agenda for the cabinet meeting on 2 February, including reports on consultation responses and feedback and a full list of proposals for budget growth and savings.

Find details of both meetings, including, agendas, reports and how to access the meeting as a member of the public remotely on the calendar of meetings on the council's website.

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Comments

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

Julian Barlow
Tuesday 26th January 2021 at 8:13 am
Another year, another increase. And yet despite taking an even greater percentage of our income, nothing improves. The roads are utterly dreadful, the pavements remain strewn with leaves and branches that fell from the trees months ago, the drains and gullies are blocked, flooding has become a major issue and our green spaces are fast disappearing. If the public could chose who provided their services CEC would have lost the contract years ago. There isn’t enough money in the world to make CEC competent. It might “only” be an additional £1 a week but it’s another £1 wasted on pay offs, meaningless consultations and ineptitude. I’d rather have the money to spend on my family.
Mark Russell
Tuesday 26th January 2021 at 8:48 am
These guys are as predictable as the tides. Can you imagine if Tesco’s put there prices up 5%? They would lose millions of customers, but these people get away with it and no oversight, deliberately putting the rise at 0.01% below the level required for a referendum. How cynical can they get? At a time when all businesses are fighting to stay alive, by cutting their costs, these guys just put their prices up. If they were a normal business they would be laughed out of town.

The service we get is awful, and now they want 5% more of our hard earned cash, to cover for their inability to run properly. I wouldn’t mind paying it if I thought things would improve. But things won’t. I can’t even be bothered to list all the massive failings, it’s just ground hog day with these people.
Nick Jones
Wednesday 27th January 2021 at 2:10 pm
'The public do not know anything about wasting public money. We are the experts.'
Sir Humphrey Appleby GCB,KBE,MVO.

Even Dick Turpin had the good grace to wear a mask !

What savings are CEC making ?
Cut the ridiculous expenditure of the PCC ?
Sell some of their buildings, Land?

Reduction of top heavy management ?

Preposterous !
Laurie Atterbury
Wednesday 27th January 2021 at 4:37 pm
No worse than the cheek of the dvla to request my road fund licence for £150 renewal when the Gov't have ordered me not to make unnecessary journeys!
John Harries
Wednesday 27th January 2021 at 7:06 pm
'FOC' (= Government initiative...) hairbrained scheme ("we sought consultation") for parking/footpath/cycleway sharing, unbridled permission to build over farmland/openspaces (err. read LOCAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN), flood prevention that doesn't (self inflicted by planners), golden handshakes (self inflicted by CEC Executive/managers who don't) and a historical record of private initiative schemes to save 'us' huge amounts of money (that don't), legal fees to cover their own errors (and backs) and my current favourite - the recent new plan for a bus terminus in Handforth (again following "professional and local consultation") when there's barely a survivable bus service in sight.
Historically they essentially ignore ratepayers wishes and deliver services/decisions that suit their political (and no doubt personal) objectives - there is a new CEC cohort at the helm but I fear not a lot will change, hope I'm wrong.
I'm sure others will come up with more important things that I've not highlighted but it's not a pretty take on a bunch that now assure us they need even more of our money to chuck down their drain (poor simile because drains are definitely not a CEC forte - took me 48 months to get them to unblock just 4 drains of 19 on our road - and in that time not one single CEC reply to my enquires/complaint - nice).
Kathryn Blackburn
Thursday 28th January 2021 at 8:55 am
Here is a thought we should only pay for the services we use and the staff that provide them.
John Harries
Thursday 28th January 2021 at 10:03 am
Katheryn Blackburn - good thought but
a) how long would it take CEC to cobble something together
b) they would probable outsource a) to a third party....worse, set up yet another private initiative service to deliver efficiencies?
c)...on previous experience it would be a dogs breakfast and cost ‘us’ even more out of the rates thus a further hike CEC could justify following ‘consultation with the electorate’
Kathryn Blackburn
Friday 29th January 2021 at 8:23 am
Well Mr Harries if you keep accepting this current year on year rise we will be back in Poll Tax territory with single person households being hammered
and in some cases may need to sell their homes even despite using limited services.
Shaun Waugh
Friday 29th January 2021 at 7:22 pm
I am a bit confused by the figures. If band D is £1503.98, which I assume is an average household, adding 4.99% gives an increase of £75.05 per year. When I went to school (while ago now) there were 52 weeks a year so it comes to £1.44 a week. Maybe the rounding down to £1 is where some of the problems with the accounting is coming from.
Also the comment 'Beyond 2021/22 we are proposing smaller increases in council tax of 1.99 per cent.' Are they putting that as official? Will we have to pay 5% increase for Police (last year) and 13.6% (19/20) and them say the public wanted it?
David Jefferay
Wednesday 3rd February 2021 at 7:34 pm
@Shaun Waugh, I haven't seen the calculation but the quote is for the average household so I'm assuming band D is not the average household.
Laurie Atterbury
Saturday 6th February 2021 at 5:09 pm
No worse than the cheek of the dvla to request my road fund licence for £150 renewal when the Gov't have ordered me not to make unnecessary journeys!
Pete Taylor
Saturday 6th February 2021 at 8:39 pm
@ Laurie Atterbury, the Road Fund licence was abolished by the Finance Act, 1936.

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