Cheshire East Council is set to outline financial plans for 2024/25.
The council’s corporate policy committee is meeting on 13 February to agree and recommend the draft budget for 2024/25 to the meeting of full council on 27 February.
Cheshire East Council, like councils across the country, has been experiencing unprecedented financial pressure. This results from increased demand and costs for adult social care and children’s services, especially special educational needs that have not been met by increased funding. Inflation, generally, has also been at high levels in the year since the council’s budget and council tax was set in February. Had council tax been increased in line with inflation then the council’s income would have been more than £15 million higher for the year.
As a result, spending on vital council services in the borough is currently forecast to exceed the 2023/24 budget by £13m and the net expenditure requirement for 2024/25 is expected to exceed available funding by £11.7m. Consequently, the council will have to use its reserves to fund the gap in both 2023/24 and 2024/25. Cheshire East Council’s general reserve was £22 million when the council was formed in 2009, fell to £10 million in 2019, before being built back to £14 million in 2023. However, these reserves are still very low compared to many other councils who have higher reserves to fall back on.
A council tax rise of 4.99 per cent and a number of changes to services are proposed to balance the books for 2024/25.
Councillor Sam Corcoran, leader of Cheshire East Council and chair of the corporate policy committee, said:
“We must act swiftly and decisively to manage the financial pressures, build sustainable financial reserves and protect vital services, prioritising those who most need our help.
“We have a good record of responsible financial management. However, the national situation is now affecting even well-run councils.
“I congratulate all those who have worked to achieve this balanced budget. However, work needs to start immediately on ensuring that the council transforms the way it delivers services, to ensure that we have a sustainable future.”
Approval of the council’s budget is a responsibility of the full council.
Corporate policy committee is meeting on 13 February to agree a budget to recommend to members at the full council meeting on 27 February.