THE councillor tasked with balancing Cheshire East Council’s books has hit back at claims the new administration is not planning for the future.

Cllr Janet Clowes, leader of CEC’s Conservative opposition, told the Guardian that the new Labour-Independent Group administration had ‘relied on a strong inherited financial position’ in its draft budget for 2020-21.

She also claimed that the budget proposals – which went out to consultation earlier this month – paid ‘little attention’ to dealing with financial pressures beyond April 2021.

But Cllr Amanda Stott, cabinet member for finance, ICT and communications, says the previous Conservative administration left CEC’s finances in a perilous position – and that Cllr Clowes did not provide any ‘forward-thinking’ ideas when the draft budget was discussed with members.

Knutsford Guardian:

“Cllr Clowes says that we should have paid more attention to the years beyond 2020,” the independent member for Bollington said.

“Sadly the previous administration chose not to do this and left an £11.5 million funding gap for us to find – something that she describes as a strong inherited financial position. This isn’t quite how I would have described it.

“We currently have an in-year shortfall of £7.5 million which could be due to necessary costs from last year being delayed into this year – hence why we now have to look at ways of bridging this shortfall.

“I would be delighted to have a conversation with Cllr Clowes about her ideas for forward-thinking finance-raising projects, sadly something that she chose not to share with us in August.”

CEC’s budget is set to rise by £18.9 million to almost £300 million next year – including a 1.99 per cent tax hike and a two per cent precept for adult social care.

Cllr Stott held workshops with councillors from across the political divide in August and September to discuss the budget plans for next year.

“I am not sure what more could have been done,” she added.

“The feedback from these sessions was this new initiative was most welcome and [councillors] appreciated being involved in the process.

“The document is now being scrutinised by residents, committees, town and parish councils, businesses, schools and anyone who has an interest in Cheshire East, which demonstrates further engagement.”

The council 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.

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.

Knutsford Guardian:

After the draft budget was first published, Cllr Clowes said: “The major concern must be that while the end of year budget looks robust, there is little attention about how the pressures in years two and three will be met.

“In short, this budget has relied on a strong inherited financial position and has focused on using these windfalls [from Government] to achieve a short-term balanced budget without considering the opportunities for forward-thinking, finance-raising projects that will protect the budget in future years.”

But Cllr Sam Corcoran, CEC’s Labour leader, insisted the authority was struggling to plan for the years ahead because the Government only announced a one-year financial settlement for councils – before calling a snap General Election.

Knutsford Guardian:

He 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.”

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Consultation on CEC’s draft budget runs until January 6, before the final budget plans are considered in February.

To see the plans and have your say, visit