Facing the future. Council sets out budget for 2022/23

31 January 2022

Facing the future was Cheshire West and Chester Council’s consultation exercise which was open to all and was carried out in Autumn 2021, to help shape the Council’s Budget for 2022-23.

Based on current assumptions, the Council faces a funding gap of £67.4m over the next three years as a result of reduced Government funding, significant demand led cost pressures and the ongoing costs of the Council’s response to the pandemic. Like many households the Council is facing a significant increase in costs due to increasing inflation and rising fuel and energy costs. 

Central Government grant funding is expected to reduce further by £10.2m over this period. There is continuing uncertainty around future funding allocations from Government for local authorities.

To increase the funding available to local authorities, the expectation from central Government is that councils will increase basic Council Tax by 1.99% plus an additional 1% to help fund adult social care costs.  This means that residents will see a Council Tax increase of 95 pence per week on a Band D property.

The budget has been set to continue to build strong communities, strong local businesses, a thriving local economy and provide a safety net of support for those residents who need our help. 

Despite the financial pressures, the Council will be increasing its ongoing spend by investing an extra £11.6 million in Adult Social Care to fund significant inflationary pressures, and maintain market stability, including paying the Fair Cost of Care.  The Council is also investing £2.8 million in Children’s Services to meet the pressures arising from the increased cost of supporting children in care. 

Alongside these activities the Council will also be investing £345.9million between 2022 and 2026 in the infrastructure of the borough. This will include:
  • Regeneration of town centres across the borough, including investments in housing, accommodation to support children in care, 2000 additional school places and improvements to educational facilities, plus investment in libraries, leisure and sports facilities.
  • Continuing investment in Highways and Transport to improve and repair roads, bridges and Chester’s City Walls and maintaining quality public realm.
  • Investment in a Carbon Reduction Strategy to help reduce energy usage and costs and to tackle the Climate Emergency by supporting schemes that deliver renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste reduction, zero or low carbon transport and natural capital/natural environment projects.
  • Investment in business support and skills and training as part of our plan to build a stronger and fair local economy.
  • Investment in Street Care services to help keep neighbourhoods clean and tidy.

The Council will need to make significant savings in the financial year 2022-2023, and future years.  In total, the budget package for the next three years requires the delivery of £30.8m of savings, with £14.3m required in 2022-23. 

Councillor Carol Gahan, cabinet member for legal and finance said, 

“The Council is facing significant cost pressures in relation to Adults and Children’s Social Care and the continued financial impact from our COVID-19 response.  This will likely continue this year and beyond. Whilst we welcome the Government grants that were allocated to help the Council fund these pressures, the other pressures on local services have not been funded centrally, and we continue to press Government to address the funding challenges facing all councils.

“Due to the significant cost pressures the Council is facing, and the uncertainty around the Government funding that will be available in future years, we feel that we have no option but to increase Council Tax in line with Government expectations.” 

Leader of the Council, Councillor Louise Gittins said, 

“The Council’s budget is set against a backdrop of financial uncertainty for all councils.

“Over 400 people responded to our consultation, Facing the future, on budget proposals, set out in October last year, and we are grateful to everyone who gave us their views. We are acutely aware of the financial challenges that some of the borough’s most vulnerable residents face, particularly in relation to the payment of Council Tax.  Despite the significant funding gap, we have chosen to protect the Council Tax Reduction Scheme for those residents who need it, as well as our Discretionary Hardship Fund to ensure that residents receive appropriate levels of financial support when they need it and the Help in Emergencies for Local People (HELP) scheme, offering local welfare assistance including support for exceptional needs and residents in crisis. These are tough times, but we have set a budget that looks after people and invests in the future of our borough.”

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