KNUTSFORD Town Council is adding £100,000 to its reserves so it can decide later whether to top up some Cheshire East services such as leisure to help keep them afloat.

The decision means the town council’s precept [its part of the council tax] for 2024/25 will increase by £22.64 for a Band D property – taking it to £119.93 for the year.

Cash-strapped Cheshire East is currently reviewing the way it provides a number of services – including leisure, green space maintenance and libraries - and asking town councils across the borough for support.

It is hoping Knutsford Town Council will pay an annual contribution, or 'top-up' of £29,878 to help keep the under-threat leisure centre running.

The town council is also being asked for funding from under-pressure charities such as The Welcome, which provides services such as delivering meals to vulnerable people, and the Heritage Centre.

Following a lengthy debate at Monday night’s meeting over the charity requests, it was decided the individual calls for community funding would be deferred until Cheshire East sets its budget next month.

That was so the town council could assess the implications of the Cheshire East budget and how it will affect service provision in Knutsford before committing any funding anywhere else.

Knutsford Guardian: Knutsford Town Mayor Peter CoanKnutsford Town Mayor Peter Coan (Image: Knutsford Town Council)During the discussion on The Welcome request, town mayor Peter Coan said: “We need to have a complete overview of what we are required to fund throughout the entire town.

“If Cheshire East, for argument’s sake, decides to withdraw funding for libraries or grass-cutting in Knutsford, and asks the town council for a contribution to maintain those services, we might want to prioritise the grass-cutting over contributions to 'x'.

“Until those budgets are finalised and we know what level of services Cheshire East are going to provide, we’re not in a position to prioritise anything over anything else.”

Knutsford Guardian: Cllr Rex MearsCllr Rex Mears (Image: Knutsford Town Council)Cllr Rex Mears said: “There’s some tough decisions to be made… and we also don’t know what’s heading our way from Cheshire East.

“As much as I agree we shouldn’t be picking up, wherever possible, things that Cheshire East are dumping, it may be that we need to be delivering something which is really important to the people of Knutsford that otherwise they just wouldn’t get, so I can’t see that we can make these (charity request) decisions tonight.”

Cllr Scott Lowe proposed the decisions on the individual funding requests be deferred to a future meeting of the town council, once Cheshire East had set its budget and this was agreed.

Then, during the town council’s own budget setting process, Cllr Stewart Gardiner proposed the council set aside additional reserves of £100,000 so it had that money to draw on should it decide to fund some of the services if Cheshire East so requested.

The cash would also be available for considering applications from other community schemes such as The Welcome.

Councillors pointed out that, although the money had been put into the reserves, there was no obligation to spend it.

The council voted in favour of adding £100,000 to its reserves for 2024/25.