CHESHIRE East has approved its budget for the next financial year which includes mothballing three tips and increasing council tax by 4.99 per cent.

The council voted by 43 to 32 in favour of the budget which brings in a raft of savings measures including emergency tip closures at Bollington, Middlewich and Poynton from April.

The meeting was told the council planned to trial mobile household waste recycling in those areas but details of how it would operate ‘remain in development’.

The tips could re-open at a future date. A final decision is expected in September once the formal review of household waste recycling centres has been completed.

Knutsford Guardian: Cllr Sam CorcoranCllr Sam Corcoran (Image: Cheshire East Council)

Council leader Sam Corcoran (Sandbach, Lab) told yesterday's (Tuesday) full council meeting: “No council leader wants to put up council tax particularly during a cost of living crisis when people are struggling with increasing prices and high interest rates, but those factors affect councils too.”

He said it was a ‘significant achievement’ to have a legally balanced budget but it was essential the council stuck to it.

Knutsford Guardian: Cllr Craig BrowneCllr Craig Browne (Image: Cheshire East Council)

Deputy leader Craig Browne (Alderley Edge, Ind) said all councils were under huge financial pressure and 'the frustrating thing is it doesn't need to be like this'.

He told the meeting: “We raise more than £150m a year in business rates collected from hard-working, well performing local businesses.

“However, as a council, we only get to keep £50m of this, with the other £100m going into the government's coffers.

“£100m would easily cover the projected growth in demand for and increased costs of delivering council services over the course of the next 12 months.”

The Conservatives voted against the budget.

Knutsford Guardian: Cllr Janet ClowesCllr Janet Clowes (Image: Cheshire East Council)

Conservative group leader Janet Clowes (Wybunbury) said inflation and high interest rates are linked to external, international and global events, that all governments are struggling to address.

But she said the responsibility for how the public purse is spent in Cheshire East ‘rests in this chamber’, adding measures outlined in the budget are ‘meaningless’ if not delivered.

“Don’t under-estimate the impact on this year’s budget of the delays and non-delivery of elements of last year’s MTFS [medium term financial strategy],” said Cllr Clowes.

Knutsford Guardian: Cllr Reg KainCllr Reg Kain (Image: Cheshire East Council)

Liberal Democrat leader Reg Kain (Alsager), who voted against the budget, said: “I feel that the projected income from a number of areas is overly optimistic and does not reflect the true economic insights and projections of the national economic situation.”

Crewe councillor Laura Smith (Lab), who abstained from voting on her own party’s budget, said: “Raising council tax shifts the burden of the financial crisis in councils onto the poorest households… and we know that council tax forms a larger share of their monthly outgoings than that of a wealthier family.

“People are paying more and they're getting less because… of this Tory government's ongoing attack of austerity.”

But Knutsford councillor Tony Dean (Con) said Cheshire East’s ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to the financial pressures it was facing was to cut services and ‘that first knee-jerk reaction should not have been to cut services but to look at our own expenditure.’

Cllr Dean said: “We have messed about with keeping a few vacancies but we've not restructured the workforce and huge savings could have come from that…

“My point is that we have not looked at our own costs, we’ve just looked straight at cutting services.

“In my own committee, we’re cutting household waste recycling centres, we're doing a strategic leisure review to save £1.3m, street cleaning we want to save millions there, green spaces maintenance - and all those things should have been the last things we did not the first things to save money.”