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Budget to be agreed at meeting next week

Financial plans that would see residents pay 4.99% more council tax next year have moved a step closer to final sign-off.

At a meeting of Cheshire East’s Cabinet last Tuesday, councillors voted to send the authority’s budget for full council approval later this month.

Officially known as the medium term financial strategy, it lays out the borough’s spending and tax plans from 2021-25 and shows that council chiefs are planning to raise council tax by 4.99% in 2021-22.

This is the maximum allowed by central government and is made up of a 1.99% council tax rise itself, and an additional 3% adult social care precept.

Presenting the report to Cabinet, finance portfolio holder Coun Amanda Stott said: “Despite everything else that happened in 2020, the council has still been able to plan on providing services in the medium term.

“This is the first time that Cheshire East Council has produced a corporate plan that aligns with a balanced financial plan.

“We also know that Government grants are unlikely to be a (source) of future funding for these services. Our spending power therefore decreases without council tax increasing. This recommendation is not made lightly.

“The uncertainty of balancing future funding has made balancing the MTFS a difficult process.”

Although Opposition members did not directly challenge the increase in council tax, they did raise concerns over plans to cut funding to some mental health services.

Coun Stewart Gardiner, deputy Conservative group leader, said: “I am concerned at … proposed savings identified for services in mental health and I am concerned this may be a mis-estimate in terms of the costs going forward.

“I am aware of a significant uplift in the significant number of people going to access mental health services. In a neighbouring area they have seen a rise in the number of adults with crisis situations. It may be a bit short-sighted of us to imagine we can make savings in those areas.”

Responding, Coun Laura Jeuda, Cabinet member for health, said she “shared Coun Gardiner’s concerns on the rise in mental health (referrals) in the population”, and outlined the process of discharging someone from hospital with a mental health issue.

The budget will now be debated at a full online council meeting at 11am on Wednesday.

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