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Council approves its budget

February 16, 2024
Average read time: 4 minutes

The Council’s proposals for a balanced budget for 2024-25 were approved by Full Council on Thursday 15 February.

The package had been developed over the last few months and has been shaped by feedback from residents and local organisations through a public consultation exercise in the Autumn.

The approved budget will result in a total Council spend of £989.7m in 2024-25. It also includes savings proposals of £29.7m in the next financial year to enable the Council to balance its books, with additional savings proposals of £47.5m identified from 2025-28.

As part of the package, an increase in Council Tax of 4.99% was also approved.

Council Tax rises of this level form part of the 2024-25 funding settlement provided to local authorities by Central Government, with an expectation that they will be implemented to help cover costs. Residents in a Band B property - the band with the most properties across the borough - will see a Council Tax increase of £1.34 per week.

Despite an extremely challenging financial situation, the Council’s budget includes a range of significant investment proposals designed to benefit local communities in both the immediate and longer term. In 2024-25, an additional £28.1m will be spent in Adult Social Care and £21.1m in Children and Families, to help the growing number of people who need support and meet the considerably higher costs of providing those services.

A £375m capital investment package has also been approved to fund a range of transformation projects over the next four years. This includes regeneration projects to further improve town centres in Ellesmere Port and Winsford; sustainable transport initiatives across the borough, such as improvements to roads, cycling and walking routes; more affordable housing for local residents; accommodation provision for children in care, care leavers and people experiencing homelessness; and funding to support people to live independently for as long as possible through adaptations to their homes.

Leader of the Council, Cllr Louise Gittins, said: 

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This is undoubtedly the most difficult financial situation we have ever faced as a local authority, and is one which is being felt by Councils across the country.

While we have identified £29.7m of savings to address the immediate challenge of setting a balanced budget for 2024-25, we know they will be tough to deliver - with considerable further savings required in future years. Difficult choices will need to be made.

The funding package provided to Councils by Government has decreased over time, and does not fully cover the increasing demand and cost of providing key public services to people across Cheshire West and Chester - particularly in relation to social care. It also means that, cumulatively, funding for our Council has reduced by around £639m since 2011-12 according to best estimates.
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Cllr Gittins

Councillor Gittins continued:

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Included within the Government settlement is an expectation that all local authorities will raise Council Tax by the maximum level allowed to pay for those services, putting even greater strain on household budgets during a cost-of-living crisis. We will continue to call on Government to provide a sustainable financial solution for Councils which does not place that responsibility on the communities we serve.

At the same time, we need to remain focused on managing the budget we have available, using it in ways that reflect the priorities of our residents and businesses, and providing the best possible value for money for local people. Our response has always been based on sound financial management, innovation, and supporting those most in need - and this will continue to be the case.

We will do everything we can to safeguard the financial sustainability of the Council, and do whatever it takes to support our communities as effectively and compassionately as we possibly can.
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Cllr Gittins

Cabinet Member for Legal and Finance, Cllr Carol Gahan, said:

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Cheshire West and Chester Council has long been recognised for managing our limited resources well, and providing the good quality services that our residents and businesses deserve.

Our agreed budget package represents our response to a truly unprecedented funding challenge, at a time when a number of other Councils are at risk of issuing a section 114 notice, or have already done so - effectively declaring themselves bankrupt.

That response brings together a range of plans to transform the delivery of our services in ways that meet the needs of local people, while reducing our costs. At the same time, it includes significant investment in our future - supporting people at the earliest possible stage, protecting our most vulnerable residents, and regenerating the towns and cities that we call home.

In doing so, it reflects the feedback we received from local people through their responses to our budget consultation - and our unwavering commitment to minimising the impact of our financial situation on the communities of our borough.
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Cllr Gahan