'Imaginative and prudent' budget ratified by Council

26 February 2016

Cheshire West and Chester Councillors last night (Thursday) backed a four-year plan to bridge a £57.2m funding gap while protecting the services most valued by residents.

During a three-hour Full Council meeting Members ratified a budget for 2016/17 and endorsed a four-year spending programme in line with the Council’s newly-adopted Plan.

A recommended 3.99pc Council Tax rise - comprising a 1.99 percent general increase and an additional two percent increase for adult social care - was also approved.

The decision means the standard Band D Council Tax rate for 2016/17 will be £1,326.11, a rise of approximately £1 per week.

Councillor David Armstrong, Cabinet Member for Legal and Finance, told the meeting that the loss of central government grants would lead to a £57.2m funding gap by 2020 - 22 percent of the Council’s net budget.

He said that the “imaginative and prudent” budget would involve the restructure and reconfiguration of services affecting every area of the Council’s activity.

He explained that this would be aligned to the key priorities set out in the Council Plan ‘Helping the Borough Thrive’ which include protecting vulnerable residents and reducing inequality.

Councillor Armstrong said: “Let’s be clear - this Council will be smaller in four years. The services we offer in some areas will not be available because of the cuts being forced upon us.

“Even though we face a huge financial challenge we have still looked to make the best creative use of resources. My recommendation is that Cheshire West and Chester will be safer and stronger if you vote for this budget.” Councillor Eveleigh Moore Dutton, Opposition spokesman for Finance, told the meeting that the Opposition disagreed with the Administration’s budget proposals around levels of tax and spend.

She described the proposed Council Tax increase as “excessive” and said that feedback from the recent Let’s Talk consultation indicated residents would find a two percent rise acceptable.

Councillor Moore Dutton also singled out proposals to reduce Members’ Budgets from £10,000 to £5,000 and to end the discretionary payment of 20 percent of the New Homes Bonus to parish and town councils.

“We urge you to retain this delegation of funds to enable local communities to become stronger and to enable real local decision-making,” she said.

“If I can plead with you to reconsider anything, it is this cut. It is wrong and it is unnecessary.” The budget was supported by 38 votes to four, with two abstentions. The Council Tax setting was supported by 38 votes to one.

The majority of Opposition Members left the Council Chamber during the budget debate in protest over a procedural matter and were not present for voting on the budget and Council Tax.

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