A LOOMING General Election might not be the best preparation, but Cheshire East Council chiefs have set out plans to balance the books next year.

Consultation has begun on the first draft budget to be drawn up by a non-Conservative administration in the council’s history after Labour and the Independent Group struck a deal following May’s local elections – and it sees the budget increase by £18.9 million to almost £300 million.

Cllr Sam Corcoran, CEC’s Labour leader, said: “We have had to set out our budget proposals based on what we know now.

“We cannot second guess what could happen in the General Election, it would not be a sensible way forward.

“I want to set a balanced budget for the next four years but Government has only announced a one-year settlement, so we cannot really plan ahead.”

Taxpayers look set to see their council tax bills increase by 1.99 per cent each year from next April until 2023-24, while a two per cent precept for adult social care is also set to be added in 2020-21.

CEC expects to rake in an additional £4.3 million from the tax increase in 2020-21, £4.3 million from the precept, £4.1 million in additional tax from 2,200 new homes, £1.3 million from business rates and £5.1 million from a Government social care grant – although no details on funding social care beyond 2020-21 have been revealed by Government.

Cllr Sam Corcoran, CEC’s Labour leader, said: “We have an ageing population and this leads to increased social care costs.

“The Government has been promising a green paper on social care ever since the last General Election – it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”

Major investments proposed include more than £38 million towards school provision, an extra £16 million for adult social care and £5.7 million more for cared for children’s services over the next four years.

Perhaps the most innovative policy is the introduction of the Crewe town centre civic heat network, with a near-£3 million investment proposed for 2020-21 for a project that would deliver heat and power for the town.

A contentious policy down the line could involve parking charges – with CEC proposing an extra £1.5 million of income from parking over the next couple of years.

Cllr Corcoran added: “A review will be conducted on a town by town basis – some prices will go up, some will remain the same, and there may be towns were prices drop.

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“But the increase in revenue might not necessarily come from higher charges. Some towns are short of parking – if you provide an extra car park, you get extra money.”

Consultation will end on January 6, before the final budget plans are considered in February.

To view the budget proposals and take part in the consultation, visit cheshireeast.gov.uk/budget