THE borough council has been hit with a “double whammy” of problems which puts a question mark over its future.
One of the headaches is a meagre Government grant settlement which the council leader says could lead to cuts in services next year.
The first blow against Ellesmere Port & Neston struck last Wednesday when the Government delayed the announcement of how the authority will fare in the local government shake-up of Cheshire.
It was expected it would be given leave to join Chester and Vale Royal in a new West Cheshire authority but Local Government Minister John Healey says more information is needed before he makes up his mind.
According to council leader Justin Madders until this crucial issue is resolved he and colleagues are unable to plan for next year.
Bombshell number two fell on Friday when the Government announced the borough would be getting just 1% extra in grant aid next year followed by half a percent in each of the following two financial years.
Cllr Madders says this will leave the council with a £1m deficit next year and could lead to cuts in services.
Although it is expected the reorganisation quandry could be settled before Christmas, it is the meagre 2007/08 grant settlement that is perplexing borough chiefs.
The 1% they will be picking up amounts to about £70,000 when such yearly increases are usually measured in millions.
It means the council will get about £7m for services compared to £6,934,000 last year.
To put this in perspective, the county council will receive an extra 2.2%, Cheshire police 2.5% and Cheshire fire service 5.8%.
Cllr Madders said: “Obviously, the settlement is disappointing. But we always expected it to be pretty poor given that the Government is making education a priority.
“We will have a deficit of £1m next year and will have to go a long way to bridge that gap.
“I am not expecting we will have to make a massive cull but we won’t be embarking on a new wave of municipal socialism.
“If there are cuts we will look at the less painful things first, such as non-replacement of staff. People are looking to leave anyway due to the uncertainty over local government reorganisation.”
Local government shake-up stalled – see page 3.