Residents encouraged to have their say on budget plans
23 October 2020Residents, businesses and community groups are being invited to share their views on Cheshire West and Chester Council’s budget proposals for the next four years. The six-week public consultation opens today, 23 October, and closes on 3 December.
The budget consultation, called Unprecedented Times, reflects the Council’s continued focus on delivering services that residents said were important in 2020 when the current four-year budget plan was formed. However, the huge and unforeseen financial impact of COVID-19 cannot be underestimated.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “These unprecedented times have made financial planning more difficult than ever. No one could have predicted just how serious the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic would be on communities and the services they depend on. The pandemic has had a very serious impact on our finances as a Council and we need strong recovery plans.
“Even before the pandemic, the challenge of supporting vulnerable children, families and adults continues to grow beyond expectations and placed more pressure on the budget. We have taken a planned and prudent approach, which was informed by your priorities and this has given us a good track record when it comes to budget planning. We hope this will stand us in good stead as we face an uncertain future.”
Councillor Carol Gahan, Cabinet Member for Legal and Finance said, “We have managed our financial position carefully, but we are facing a future funding gap that impacts on how services are provided.
“There is considerable uncertainty on this position as Government has not yet set out the funding for local government, so we are unclear on the money they will make available to the Council. We also face ongoing budget pressures resulting from the pandemic. Overall, we could face a major financial shortfall over the next four years.
“After business rates and council tax are accounted for, alongside existing savings proposals that we have already consulted on, the gap remains between £34 million and £43 million, depending on the national funding available.
“We will have to make some very difficult decisions about significant savings and efficiencies to make sure we can continue to support those with the most complex needs and to deliver our residents’ priorities. We will do everything we can to innovate and reduce the impact on residents and our staff, but the challenge is significant. Without additional funding from central government, we need to plan for job reductions of around 180. We plan to achieve these through voluntary means and by not recruiting to some vacancies, and in close consultation with the staff affected.”
“The Council Plan, known as Play Your Part to Thrive, sets out a vision of all our communities working alongside us to tackle shared challenges. Now, more than ever, this approach is needed if we are to confront these unprecedented times and build a stronger future.”
The results will be published on the Council website in February 2021 so that people can see how their views have influenced decision-making. The proposals will then be brought forward to a full Council meeting, scheduled for 25 February 2021.
Full information is posted on the Council’s website, and hard copies of the consultation document will be made available in public buildings and on request. People can participate in the following ways.