Job losses, funding cuts, and tax hike planned to balance Cheshire West and Chester Council budget

Scores of job losses, funding cuts and a maximum council tax hike of nearly £90 a year on a Band D property are among measures being put in this year’s council budget.

Councillors will meet in February where they will decide whether to rubber-stamp an annual budget of £410.9m for the coming financial year, described as having been put together in “the most challenging financial climate since the council’s inception”.

A report said Cheshire West and Chester is facing a shortfall of £165m over the next four years, due to government funding changes, budget pressures – especially on adult and children’s services – as well as rising costs of things like inflation and pay awards.

The council has earmarked savings and increases in income to mitigate the shortfall, which it said will reduce the black hole to £13.8m. Reserves of £17.5m would be used to offset shortfalls in the coming year.

The authority wants to put up council tax by 4.99 per cent – which includes 2.99 per cent in basic council tax – the maximum allowed under government legislation without triggering a local referendum. There would also be a two per cent rise in the adult social care precept. The total rise would equate to an annual council tax on a Band D of £1,884.07 – an increase of £89.55.

The final figure people will pay is still unclear and depends on the precepts for police, fire and parish/town councils which are subject to separate approvals by each organisation.

Cost-cutting measures being put forward include axing 124 full-time jobs – with 46 of those posts going this coming year. The council said this includes staff leaving through a ‘mutually agreed resignation scheme’ which opened to applications before Christmas.

The report said the government has only provided a one-year funding settlement for 2024-25, so there remained ‘continued uncertainty’ in respect of funding allocations for future years.

It added, “The council has set a budget which includes the highest level of growth and savings in its history. To remain sustainable, there needs to be a real focus and accountability about delivery of the savings. This will be regularly monitored, and risk assessed.”

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