Devolution plans to join debt ridden Warrington "would be utter madness"

Members of Cheshire East's Corporate Policy Committee are divided over the Council's devolution plans and whether they should be joining forces with both Cheshire West and Warrington.

Committee members were asked at their meeting on Thursday, 13th June, to approve the Council's plans to engage proactively with Government, in order to assess and understand what sub regional options on devolved powers are achievable.

Peter Skates, Acting Executive Director of Place, explained that devolutions could enable the transfer of up to £20M-£30M funding per annum for up to 30 years, and empower sub regional areas to take more control, including addiitonal control for the local transport network.

However, some conservative members expressed their concerns over including Warrington given their level of debt.

Councillor Chris O'Leary, Sutton Conservative, said "Warrington Borough Council has a debt of £1.85 billion, it is the most in-debited local authority in the country. Without an electoral mandate discussions in secret being held with the most in-debited borough in the council going ahead in a way that will effectively further destroy services in the north of the borough."

He continued "I will not be supporting these recommendations, I will not be supporting a devolution deal that includes Warrington I think it would be utter madness for this council to go into such a deal because it will just syphon off resources into Warrington."

Councillor Janet Clowes, Leader of Conservative Group, supported her colleague view saying "In light of what we've just heard absolutely we should be considering leaving Warrington out."

Councillor Nick Mannion, Labour Macclesfield West and Ivy, urged members to accept the recommendation saying "All it's asking us to do is sit down and hear what the government's got to offer after 5th July."

Council leader Sam Corcoran said "In terms of the fear our funding would be syphoned off. there is no risk there. The example of Birmingham and West Midlands has been quoted. The idea is the devolved authority would sit above the three authorities, it would not be not be taking funding from any of the individual councils to pass on to another council. So I think those concerns can be squashed."

He continued "We are being asked to enter into discussions with government. I do think it is crucial we go ahead with this now at this time so that when the new government is formed we can be first in the queue to discuss devolution and press ahead with the plans.

"The recommendations do also make clear if we do have progress in those discussions it will come back to the Corporate Policy Committee for further discUssion and scRutiny so I do support the recommendations."

Councillor Mark Goldsmith, Independent Wilmslow West and Chorley, said "I do actually share quite a lot of the concerns the conservative councillors have raised so the question is why am I supporting this motion. Well the issue is we won't know if those concerns are valid or not unless we talk to the government. We're in a position of ignorance at the moment, we don't know what's on offer or what the strings are. Yes we may request a deal just with Cheshire West but the government might not allow us ot do that. We don't know, we have to ask the questions."

Members voted 7 in favour of the Council meeting with Government to discuss and explore the potential devolution options whilst 4 voted against and 1 abstained.

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Comments

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

Peter Bradley
Tuesday 18th June 2024 at 2:41 am
Wilmslow ratepayers have been ripped of through similiar scams in the past, firstly when Wilmslow UDC funds went to Chester, later, excess funds to Macclesfield

If a council has a debt the magnitude of Warrington, it's not difficult to understand the reason why the government wants to call a meeting of adjacent local authorities- how can Warrington ever repay that debt without the involvement of others, and the citizens of Wilmslow will be the loosers yet again.

At list it's good to know which councillors and their party leanings are responsible for supporting this idea!
Ian Ball
Tuesday 18th June 2024 at 6:44 am
Having read the article behind the click-bait headline, it strikes me that a rather more descriptive and objective headline would have been "Sense prevails over proposed CEC devolution discussions with new govt"
Gary Chaplin
Wednesday 19th June 2024 at 3:43 pm
One thing we don't need is yet more layers of under-par/incompetent management adding further bureaucracy and wasting even more money.

Less meetings, less consultations, more fingers being pulled out of more rear-ends.
Raymond James Wallace
Wednesday 19th June 2024 at 5:26 pm
You have to question the competence of the people who run CEC, they've got a pretty good track record for cock ups and incompetence, so why when we're riddled with debt ourselves, would anyone with a modicum of sense agree to load us with more. But I'm not shocked.
Alan Brough
Thursday 20th June 2024 at 12:40 pm
I particularly agree with Gary Chaplin's comment above - although I fear that CEC are already wedded to waste and mismanagement. They've recently appointed an interim S151 Officer (Finance) at a cost of £1298 per day!
Richard Mason
Friday 21st June 2024 at 10:37 am
Not sure why we are questioning the competence of CEC on this one - there is an opportunity to gain money and power from the government, there is confirmation that money would not be taken from CEC to give to Warrington, there remains concern over the detail. So the council have decided to actually find out what the detail is before making a decision. Seems like a pretty competent decision to me.
However, the cost of the interim finance director is high and surely some proper internal succession planning should have prevented that!
Peter Bradley
Wednesday 26th June 2024 at 3:22 am
I assume that what will happen will be the addition of another layer of local government, new offices, supporting staff, etc, etc, that will be paid for by each of the three authorities, CE, CW and Warrington, but any funding will almost certainly go to indebted Warrington

Just another layer of government- for what?

I wonder if the "appointed" officials have already been selected and are waiting in the wings for this consortium to be approved ?
Gary Chaplin
Wednesday 26th June 2024 at 9:56 am
Exactly my point Peter. We need less waste, not more.

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