CHESHIRE’S Council Taxpayers have missed out on almostŠ£5m in three years due to the county’s lower than average central funding grants from Whitehall.
The figure is revealed in a report on the county county’s financial position to 300 key stakeholders involved in the authority’s annual budget consultation.
It reflects the “very challengingŠscenario” ofŠreduced national funding to meet increased service demands currently facing local authorities across the country.
Council leader Paul Findlow said: “The recent Grant SettlementŠwas described by the Local Government Association as the worst for a decade.
“In Cheshire the 2.2% funding increase for 2008-09 is much lower than the 5.7% shire county average, with some shires receiving up to 11%.
“Since the introduction of the current grant distribution system in 2006-07, Cheshire has received a cumulative increase of 7.9% compared with the averageŠshire increase of 13.3%. Had Cheshire received the average national increase it would now have an extra £4.8m of funding available.”
Cllr Findlow stressed the council would continue to lobby actively for a fairer national system of local government funding which does not unfairly penalise more rural county areas such as Cheshire.
Cheshire’s 2.2% increase is only an additional £2.1m of funding and equates to a real-terms shortfall as cost pressures, increasing public demand for local services and new legislative requirements combine to produce financial pressures significantly above this level.Š
Inflationary market pressures for social care (3.9%), waste (4%), highways maintenance (3.9%) and energy (10%) are all significantly above the HM Treasury funding assumption of 1.8% for inflation pressures.Š
New responsibilities such as those created by the Care Matters White Paper are also demanding additional resources.
Finance executive member Gretta Cousins said: “These factors combine to create a financial scenario which provides very little room for manoeuvre and presents us with some very difficult choices.
“The administration is seeking to minimise the areas of service reductions as far as possible, aspiring to set a stable, sustainable budget.”
The budget consultation is currently taking place andŠresults will be taken into consideration in preparing theŠfinal proposals to go beforeŠthe council on February 6.