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Cheshire East warns of hard times

1st November 2011 @ 4:04pm – by Cheshire East
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The Leader of Cheshire East Council today warned of difficult times ahead with some hard decisions to be made. 

Councillor Wesley Fitzgerald said: "In line with local authorities up and down the country we are facing a period of harsh austerity. The severity of the economic problems at an international and national level is now beginning to manifest itself in Cheshire East. 

"This week the Cabinet reviewed the half-year situation which shows a worse case overspend of £16.2million. We have already made £17.8million savings, but we need to make even more. 

"Our Government formula funding grant meant that we started the financial year with £11.8million less than the year before. We received £70million while Cheshire West received £96.6million.

"Cheshire East has a healthy economy but of the business rates we collect, we receive back only 44%. The wealth we generate is in fact being used to bolster other areas which are not as robust as ours. 

"I am personally lobbying the Government to address some of these issues. However, we are now at a point where we must make some very hard decisions, some of which will not be popular. 

"A recruitment freeze has been implemented and we have reviewed the terms and conditions of all of our employees.  Mileage rates have been reduced for both officers and elected members. In addition, we are reviewing all grants and commissioning activities. 

"We will need to reduce the subsidy on all our fees and charges and this will not be received well. We know this and regret it, but we have no choice. The soaring increases in energy costs that we have all felt in our own homes causes a massive budgetary challenge in our leisure centres and all public buildings. These are currently subsidised by the Council. 

"We take pride in our education provision and our social care for children. However, the number of children in care has continued to rise and the money for their care has to come from somewhere. 

"In Cheshire East we have comparatively more older people. They in turn are living longer and bring financial challenges at a time when we can ill afford it. We cannot abrogate our duty to either of these groups of vulnerable people so we must make savings elsewhere. 

"It is a very difficult time for everyone with unpopular decisions that will impact on others. It is a time of growing austerity for us all and while some decisions may be unpopular, the abiding objective is that we get through this difficult period making the best of our reducing resources, while maintaining reliable services."


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