Chief reporter DAVID HOLMES met the leader and chief executive of the incoming Cheshire West and Chester Council to discuss costs, issues and a recent spat with Stoke Council
COUNCIL taxpayers in Cheshire will be asked to pick up a mammoth £35m bill to cover the cost of reorganising local government.
This is more than double the £16m budget allocated by those who submitted the proposals to Government to create just two councils for the county covering East and West Cheshire.
Figures estimate £19m costs for setting up Cheshire West and Chester Council plus £16m for Cheshire East – these figures include redundancy costs for the seven current chief executives of up to £3m.
CWAC leader Cllr Mike Jones (Con, Broxton), who was not responsible for the original scheme, has already accused his Lib Dem and Labour opponents of underestimating costs by 100% “to make a case”.
Cllr Jones said this week: “The same people said everything was all right with The Walls in Chester and look what happened three months after they lost power. Do I say any more?
“They have been playing around with the Northgate Development since 1993 and then try and blame us when it’s not been developed.”
Cllr Jones says efficiencies mean the changes will pay for themselves, but in four years not the two years originally envisaged.
And he insists the electorate can put faith in his party to make “bold decisions” to transform the way services are delivered and bring about real benefits for council taxpayers within seven to eight years.
“We are committed council tax will not go up greater than inflation and if we can get it to go down the other way I will be delighted,” added Cllr Jones.
Chief executive Steve Robinson says the electorate will be able to judge for themselves whether the new arrangements had brought improvements.
He said: “When we set a budget on February 26, we will also set out our corporate plan about what we’re going to do and how we’re going to be different and how we’re going to transform the council.
“The electorate can hold the new council to account in terms of the promises of what it will achieve over the next three years. You can’t look back and talk about those other things about how the council came into being. It is what it is.”