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Three-year council plan ‘will secure vital services’
‘SOUND financial management and bold thinking.’
That’s the call from Cheshire East Council leader Clr Michael Jones after councillors passed a financial three-year plan this week, which it states will secure vital services, protect the vulnerable and deliver value for money for the people living in the borough.
In the report voted through by full council on Thursday, Clr Jones said council tax would be frozen for the third year running – and also the following year, 2014/15.
The budget was the first one produced by Knutsford resident and borough councillor Peter Raynes in his role as financial portfolio holder.
Clr Jones said the authority would deliver ‘robust, balanced budgets’ for the next three years and commended the budget to members as being one which ‘believes in aspiration’ – and ‘aspires for the best for the people of Cheshire East’.
Clr Jones said: “This budget, as part of my promise as leader, is open and transparent. Far more than that, it tackles a national problem, head on.
“This budget is more than numbers. It is about how a modern council delivers services to the people – not relying on spend and bust or resorting to reckless policies of increasing council tax and slashing public services.
“This budget says there is a ‘different’ way.
“We can work together as a council, officers and members together, to deliver a vision of the highest quality public services ever.”
Labour said it believed the budget was ‘risky’.
Clr Sam Corcoran told the Guardian: “If you look at most budgets at the moment there’s Government cuts. Some areas of the budget have had more cuts than others.
“The thinking is that money will be invested in some of those areas that have been reduced more heavily in the hope it increases. If it does it will then be put back into the areas that it has originally been taken from.”
A shake-up of council management will save £5 million a year by 2015 by reducing the number of management posts by a quarter.
“This is together with 1,000 jobs set to go over the next three years through people retiring and ‘natural turnover’.
As part of its commitment to growing the economic prosperity of Cheshire East, the council said it plans a capital programme over £220 million over three years, and aims to secure the creation of 27,000 new homes – with 400 possibly being built in Knutsford.
THE key elements of the three-year financial strategy are.:
- Freezing council tax – no increase in council tax this year and next, saving the average tax payer £470.
- Providing better value for money – cutting out millions of pounds of unnecessary costs and waste and working more efficiently, without affecting essential frontline services.
- Reducing management costs and improving productivity – seeing the council’s wage bill reduce by at least 20 per cent.
- Making the most of our assets – reducing the number of buildings and facilities we operate and sharing others with partners. Disposing of unwanted assets to free up millions of pounds.
- Growing our economy – capital programme of more than £220 million, investing £25 million in our road network and putting in the infrastructure to help deliver 27,000 new homes.
- Delivering a better deal for you – entering into better contracts for a wide range of goods and services and, where suitable, set up our own businesses to provide innovative solutions.
- Retaining community facilities – including devolving more services and assets to the local level and new arrangements for running our 14 leisure centres to promote healthier lifestyles.
- Protecting the vulnerable and the elderly – will reshape the local provision of social care to reduce reliance on costly specialist placements outside the borough and help people to live independently for as long as possible.
- Supporting children and adults in need – will invest more in improving early intervention and prevention for both vulnerable children and adults, targeting our services where they are needed most.
- Focusing on our residents’ learning – will act as ‘guardian’ of the interests of pupils, students and parents: protecting the vulnerable and ensuring standards are monitored and maintained.
Additionally it will take steps to secure investment in better special school provision with ‘free school’ partners and pursue development of a new university technical college with our partners in Crewe.