Midcheshire Independent Issue 163

FEBRUARY2024 2 To advertise call 01204 478812 Nopartof thispublicationmaybeusedor reproducedwithout theexpresspermission of thepublisher.Everyeffort ismade to ensure that thearticlesandadvertisements thatarecarriedareauthentic,however thepublisheracceptsno responsibility for claimsmade. © Investors inPublishingLtd2024. Thisnewspaper ispublishedmonthlyby Investors inPublishing,PublishingHouse, 3Bridgebank IndustrialEstate,TaylorStreet, Horwich,BoltonBL67PD.01204478812 EDITOR GedHenderson ged@hendersonnewsandmedia.com CONTACT JayneMeadowcroft 01204478812 07703045189 jayne@independentnewspapers.co.uk ADVERTISING RobinAtkins07767840274 robin@cheshireindependent.co.uk CONTACTUS Balancing the books THE full extent of cash- strapped Cheshire East Council’s cost-cutting plansandtheseverefinan- cial challenges it faces havebeen laidoutbefore thepublic. The proposals come along- side a 4.99 per cent planned rise incounciltaxandarange ofcutsthathavealreadybeen made as the local authority looks tobalance itsbooks. As reported in the last issueofThe Independent, the council isalso facing financial uncertainty followingthegov- ernment’sdecision toaxe the HS2high-speedrail linknorth ofBirmingham. Cheshire East has now put its proposals out for public consultation,with 29 potential actions to further cut costs, including reduc- tions in a range of services andsubsidies. They include cutting staff costs, closing three waste recycling centres inBolling- ton,MiddlewichandPoynton, andaskingparishcouncils to contributetowards leisureand libraryservices. The largest savingswould bemade in adult social care - with a £5.6m saving pro- posed -andchildren’sservices, where there areproposals to save£5.2m. In its corporate services operation, the council has listedproposalstosave£4.8m. Thewide rangeof cost-cut- ting includes proposals to removed its school catering subsidy and reduce discre- tionarypost-16travelsupport. The council is also looking atreducingtheopeninghours ofmainoffices,cuttingthecost of street cleansing, making highwaymaintenancesavings and introducing annual car park fee increases. The borough’s new gar- denwaste collection charge -which came into force this monthat£56 -couldalsorise to£59. Theauthority is looking to save £750,000 by reducing the number of main waste recycling sites to four, in Macclesfield,Alsager,Crewe andKnutsford,aheadofa full reviewofwastemanagement later thisyear. Other proposals include leaving senior leadership posts vacant and reducing spendingonagencyworkers. These come on top ofdeci- sions already made, which have included agreeing to close the council’sWestfields office inSandbachandmove staff to other existing offices in the borough and recruit- ment freezes insomeareas. Stafftraininghasalsobeen putonhold,unless it isastat- utory requirement. Launching the budget consultation for the 2024/25 financialyear, council leader SamCorcoranwarned“really difficultdecisions”willhave tobemade. The council says govern- ment funding for theauthor- ity has been cut by 63 per cent inreal termssince2010. CouncillorCorcoransaid:“We must be realistic and make responsible decisions about prioritising our spend with limited resources. “We must put supporting thepeoplewhoneed ourhelp themost,aheadofmanyother thingswewould like to do - and that many people want us to do - including further investment in road mainte- nance, localrecyclingcentres, librariesand leisureservices. “Cheshire East Council is far from alone in this. Councils across the country are making severe cuts to services and making clear to government that the cur- rent financial position isnot sustainable.” CraigBrowne,deputy leader of the council added, “It is so important foreveryone to have their say. If you have never commented ina coun- cil consultation before, now is the time todo so. “A number of these pro- posals will affect everyone –eitherdirectlyor indirectly - and some of these changes are significant. We need to knowhow theymight affect you and the people you care about.” He added: “It is deeply concerninghow challenging theyearaheadwillbe forall local authorities, including CheshireEast.” The public consultation HARD CHOICES CheshireEast leader:SamCorcoran Cheshire East is braced for more cash-saving cuts CHESHIRE West and Chester Council has published its pro- posalstosetabalancedbudget followingpublicconsultation. Councillors are set to approvetheplansnextmonth. The local authority will spend £990million in2024-25on ser- vices intheborough. It has identified savings of £29.8mnextyear,with further savings required between 2025and2028. It is proposing to achieve this through “preventative work” to reduce demand on the most-costly care services, reviewing the levelsof service provided across other areas of the council, and further incomegeneration. CHESHIREPolice’sdrone unit isplayingan increas- ing role in itsoperations, new figureshaverevealed. Based at the force Head- quarters in Winsford, the policedrones took to theskies 1,576 times in2023. During the year the unit spent 292.5hours patrolling the skies of Cheshire and flyingmore than1,122miles –which is theequivalentdis- tance fromthegatesoftheHQ toSlovakia. The drone team searched more than 33,885 acres of land, locating 50 high risk missingpeopleandaiding the arrestof216offenders. Police say it has deployed Drone unit is flying high drones in incidents ranging from searches for missing persons and crime suspects to fatalroad trafficaccidents. Droneshavealsobeenused in public order and public safety operations, including footballmatchesandprotests. And the teamhasalsobeen involved inwork to find can- nabis farms in the county. The forcesaystheyalsopro- videanoverviewandgreater situationalawarenessof fire- arms incidents. SergeantDarrenMundey, who leads the unit, said: “The drone unit is one of the newer teams here at CheshireConstabulary and the team have continued to workhard,assisting frontline policing inmanaging large- scaleeventsandwarrantsas well as locatingmissing and wantedpeople. “Having drone capability makes a huge difference in thewaywe protect vulnera- blepeopleandgather critical evidenceat scenes. “Having the ability touse our drones, provides amore cost-effective alternative to National Police Air Service (NPAS) that increases our tacticaloptions incontinuing to keep Cheshire a hostile place for criminals.” THEcallhasgoneout forpeopletonominatetheircom- munityheroes fortheannualKnutsfordTownAwards. Theawardsaim torecogniseandcelebrateexcellence,com- munity spiritandpositive contributionswithin the town. Nominationscanbemadeonlineat theTownCouncilweb- site by March 22 or by filling in a paper form, which can be found atKnutsfordLibrary,TheWelcome orKnutsford MarketHall. There are a range of categories including a civic award. Last year’swinners includedRobLyonswhowashonoured for leading1stKnutsfordScouts foradecade. The community award shines the light on local charities, committees,andothergroups.Lastyear itwent to theKnuts- fordandDistrictTalkingNewspaper, TheExtraMileAward is for thosewhogoaboveandbeyond intheirpaidwork forthebenefitofthe localcommunitysuchas 2023winnerJackStreet,whoworksatJohnsons theCleaners. Hewascommended forhiskindandpatientsupport tocus- tomers,particularlyhelpingolderpeopletousenewtechnology forvariousservicesonoffer. TownmayorPeterCoansaid: “Our town is filledwithspe- cialpeoplewhogooutof theirway tomakeadifference to the community they live in. “Each yearwe ask theKnutsford residents tonominate thosewhomake the town a better place andwithout your nominations theseawardswouldnotbeable to takeplace. “Wewant to let thesepeopleknow that theyarevaluedand appreciatedand thework theydo,doesnotgounnoticed.” CALL FOR COMMUNITY HEROES Extra cash but social care is “broken” THEgovernmenthasannounceda £600millionadditionalfundingboost forEngland’s localauthorities ina bidtoeasetheirfinancialpressures. CommunitiesSecretaryMichaelGove saidtheywouldshare£500mtohelp fund children’sandadultsocialcare.Alongside that therewouldbea further£100m in other fundingguaranteesandgrants. However, inastatement,CheshireEast Councilwarned increasingadult social carecostswere“placinganunsustainable burden on the council,and jeopardising essential services for thousands of vul- nerableresidents”. It said its latest figures revealed “a sharp increase” in social care expend- iture compared to last year,driven by risingdemandand theescalatingcostof carepackages. Council leader Sam Corcoran, said: “The latest figurespaintastarkpicture ofasocialcaresystem indesperateneed ofreform. “Withdemand foradult care services soaringdue toanageingpopulation,an increase in complexityand theafter-ef- fectsof thepandemiconpeople’smental health,we’re facinga financialchallenge that threatensourability toprovideser- vices to thosewhoneed themmost.” Headded:“Thecouncil iscommittedto supporting itsmostvulnerableresidents, but the current fundingmodel for social care issimplybroken. “Wewelcomethe latestannouncement ofan extra£500m in funding for social care for councilsacrossEnglandaspart of the2024-25 localgovernment finance settlement,although it isnoteven suffi- cient to cover the cost of implementing thenewRealLivingWage. “We stronglyurge the government to finally address this crisiswith a long- term, sustainable solution that ensures everyonehasaccesstothecaretheyneed, regardlessof theirbackgroundor finan- cialcircumstances.”