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Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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More than one in ten posts not being filled

Nearly an eighth of posts at Cheshire East are vacant as the cash-strapped council tries to slash its wage bill to help balance its books.

Cheshire East is currently forecasting a £13m overspend by the end of this financial year in March – but is still hoping to find a way to break even, (writes local democracy reporter Belinda Ryan).

In October that potential shortfall had been estimated at £18.7m but the council says it has taken a number of measures to reduce that by £5.7m – and some relate to staffing.

A report to last week’s meeting of the Corporate Policy Committee, which looks back on the council’s performance for quarter two – July to September of last year – said the council had 2,847 full time equivalent staff.

“The vacancy rate has increased this quarter, to 12 per cent, reflecting the agreed action to support management of financial pressures, by reviewing all vacancies and only recruiting to posts which are crucial to statutory service delivery,” said the report.

It added:” Although the vacancy rate has increased, the number of agency staff has reduced, reflecting the start of a focused piece of work to reduce the number of agency staff.

“There has been a reduction of around 90 full time equivalent agency staff between (the first and second quarter) and we expect that this figure will continue to decrease in future quarters.”

Recruitment and staffing were also highlighted in the budget proposals for 2024/25.

These include reducing expenditure on leadership by leaving senior posts vacant temporarily and “eliminating” agency spending as far as possible.

The cost-cutting comes at the same time as the lowest starting salary point for the chief executive was hiked up by £10,000 from £160,000 to £170,000 when the council was recruiting for a new top boss.

Labour had argued against this at the October meeting of the full council but the increase was pushed through by the Conservatives and Independents and takes the new salary band to between £170,000 and £190,000.

Cheshire East is currently consulting on its budget proposals, which include 29 cost-saving measures.

Proposed cuts include closing three tips and removing the council’s subsidy to the school catering budget.

Income generating measures include increasing car park charges on an annual basis and hiking up the new charge for the garden waste bin collection service from £56 to £59 next year.

The public consultation on the budget plan is open until 11.59pm on January 28.
The online survey can be found at:

https://surveys.cheshireeast.gov.uk/s/Budget_Consultation_2024_2025/
Paper copies will also be available at local libraries.

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