Cheshire East Council Leader, Councillor Wesley Fitzgerald, has introduced the Council’s new-look Draft Business Plan today.
The Plan has moved away from the traditional route of reporting separately the Council’s budget for the coming year and its corporate priorities.
It now combines everything in one document to show clearly the Council’s ambitions and its available resources.
Councillor Fitzgerald said: “Despite the austere economic climate, the Plan outlines proposals for the next three years that support the Council’s determination to deliver the seven priorities identified in the Sustainable Community Strategy, ‘Ambition for All’.
“The Draft Business Plan is the culmination of months of extensive and intense work. It has taken into account a number of key influencing factors and every line of the budget has been carefully scrutinised. It is clear that Cheshire East is facing a challenging year.
“The amount Cheshire East receives from Government is lower than the national average. As a result, the Council has £197 less to spend per resident, but still achieves value for money in providing excellent services for its residents.
“The Council collects Business Rates on behalf of the Government. However, once Central Government has taken its slice, the Council receives £59 less per head than residents in similar-sized authority areas.
“In spite of these challenging figures, the Council has produced a robust budget for 2012/13 which demonstrates clearly that we are working to achieve the ‘Ambition for All’ priorities.”
The key areas of work that are needed cover every aspect of the Council’s services, the communities it represents, including the business world and the need to continually improve and give value for money.
“Children and vulnerable people continue to be at the forefront of the Council’s improvement aims for the future and we have achieved significant steps forward in the standard of provision of children’s services as our inspection results indicate,” continued Councillor Fitzgerald.
“It is recognised that early intervention to help children and their families is the key to reducing the demand for in-house care. In the coming year, another £1.5million will be invested in prevention.
“The needs of older people provide the biggest call for resources. More and more people are turning to the Council for care needs as their own capital dwindles. With 12 new cases being referred every four weeks, the demand is outstripping the resources – and again Cheshire East receives one of the lowest Government grants for this service.
“Despite our huge recycling success, and average savings of around £100,000 (approximately £100 a tonne) a month in landfill charges, the substantial increases year-by-year in landfill tax means that we can never catch up.”
In working to the priorities, the Council has had to balance the need to reduce spending with the increasing demand on services.
In 2010, the Chancellor announced a 25 per cent cut in Government grants to councils over four years.
Councillor Fitzgerald added: “This reduction in grant, coupled with austerity measures have resulted in a requirement of £7million savings in 2012/13. However, when the significant increase in service demand, especially among children and vulnerable older people, is added, as well as inflation, the true savings need to be in excess of £20million. That’s 9 per cent of the base budget.
“For the second year, the Government has made a further grant of £4.5million with a requirement that Council Tax is frozen at the current level.”
The Draft Business Plan is available on the Council’s website – please click on the link below the logo - and will be available for comment until February 23. Meetings will be held with businesses, via the local Chamber of Commerce groups, trades unions and the Schools’ Forum.
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