At the Cheshire East Council meeting on Thursday, a 3.75% increase in Council Tax was agreed.
For the last 5 years, the government has been hammering urban councils; cities such as Stoke, Manchester andLiverpool have seen government grant funding cut by 50%, while rural areas such as Cheshire East saw their government grant funding cut by only 5%. But in December 2015, in a massive U-turn, the tables were turned and Cheshire East Council suddenly had to find an extra £13m of cuts in order to set a balanced budget. The outcry from rural shires was loud and strident and George Osborne, like a drunk driver swerving from side-to-side of the road, U-turned again and gave interim funding to rural councils, including £3m to Cheshire East Council in both 2016/17 and 2017/18. That latest announcement came the evening before Cheshire East Council Cabinet met to approve the 2016/17 budget. The omnishambles of the local government settlement has resulted in a Cheshire East Council budget that has big cuts and at the same time millions squirreled away into reserves. What a way to run the country’s finances!
Last year Labour pledged that we would not increase council tax in 2015/16 but refused to give a commitment to freeze council tax in 2016/17 until we knew the government freeze grant and the government settlement. The bombastic Conservative leader was not so cautious and gave a pre-election pledge not to increase council tax in 2016/17. That pledge was described as irresponsible ideological electioneering – and so it has proved.
Labour Group Leader, Cllr David Newton, said, “The truth of the matter is that the government has bought off the rich, largely Tory controlled authorities with the interim funding grants announced in mid-February. This has been at the expense of the poorer authorities, especially the urban ones where so many economic and social problems need tackling.”
Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, “The 2% increase to fund social care has been dubbed the Osborne tax and there won’t be many councils that won’t impose it. I can understand the petty political reasons for a 3.75% increase rather than a 3.99% increase – just so we can say that out increase is lower than neighbouring councils. In truth we got £3m interim funding and Cheshire West only got £1.4m so maybe 3.75% is all we need. The only difference between Conservative and Labour here is that Labour is not breaking any pre-election pledge in supporting a 3.75% council tax rise.”