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Friday, May 17, 2024
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Budget agreed despite attempted amendment

Staffordshire Moorlands District Council managed to pass its budget despite opposition from Conservative councillors – which means that from April parking fees and council tax will increase, the latter by 2.99%.

Tory councillors attempted to amend the budget for greater investment in Cheadle after a failed levelling up bid, (writes local democracy reporter Jonathan Sutton).

The changes they presented to the council were to spend £900,000 in two parts; part one would be to spend £150,000 on the refurbishment of the toilets and showers at Cheadle Leisure Centre and part two would be to purchase an unnamed asset worth £750,000 through a capital loan.

According to the Conservative group “the income generated will be in excess of the interest payments, which make a sound business case.”

In addition the group wanted car parking fees frozen, which would be funded by deducting 22% from the recent increase in councillors allowance.

Speaking on the proposed budget changes Coun Mike Worthington said: “Cheadle has been overlooked for far too long. I’m getting so many emails, referencing the facilities at the leisure centre, the baths and the changing rooms, and the showers are in an absolutely shocking state.

“I don’t think we can leave them until 2025/26, I think we should be spending £150,000 currently on that and we can get that sorted straight away during the current financial year.”

According to the capital strategy next year the council is set to spend £2.6 million on leisure centres throughout the district. In the next four years Staffordshire Moorlands District Council has budgeted over £5 million on leisure centres but the budget documents do not detail what this money will be spent on.

Coun James Aberley (Con) added: “I really can’t vote for the budget as it stands as I feel personally now isn’t the right time to increase parking charges for our residents, businesses and visitors. The amount of money it is predicted now to raise is negligible in the overall scheme of the council’s budget but in terms of the harm it’ll do to the residents is significantly more.”

The budget predicts an increase in income for the increase of fees and charges to be £100,000 in 2024/25, which reduces to £75,000 and for the final two years £50,000 of the four year medium term financial plan.

Some councillors labelled the proposal “fiscally irresponsible” while the Cabinet member for leisure and tourism, Coun Matt Swindlehurst, told councillors that £150,000 “wouldn’t touch the sides” to make a proper job of the changing room.

He said: “This administration is going to spend millions and millions of pounds on that leisure centre and we very much hope that we’re going to attract the type of decarbonisation grant that we’ve got for Biddulph and that will be more millions.”

Couns voted down the Conservative group amendment by nine votes, 22 for and 31 against. However, the council passed the main vote on the budget despite objections from the Conservative Opposition.

This means that from April council tax for an average band D property will increase by 2.99% and fees on parking in the district will increase by 10p.

Cabinet member for finance, Coun Chris Wood, said: “The council budget funds the essential everyday services residents, businesses and visitors rely on including waste collections, investing in leisure and wellbeing facilities, tackling climate change – and all the other priorities we’ve set out in our corporate plan.

“We know that people continue to face challenges with their own household finances and the increases in food, fuel and other daily costs. With that in mind, we have given careful consideration to the level at which council tax has been set for the coming year.

“I’d also like to reassure people on the lowest incomes that the support scheme to help with council tax remains in place so please ensure that, if this applies to you, you are receiving the help available.

“As ever, we will continue to focus on delivering the value for money, high quality services the Moorlands deserves and to actively seek out opportunities to improve efficiency.”

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