I have serious concerns regarding fiscal management at Cheshire East Council and the impact this mismanagement is going to have on my constituents.
The council has said it may have to issue a section 114 (bankruptcy) notice as a result of being unable to balance its budgets by the end of the financial year.
This would be disastrous for local residents who would be expected to pay an awful lot more for substantially less.
Cheshire East is reporting a £13million deficit.
I am fully aware of how much adult social care costs are rising, as well as expenditure on child services for every council, and government is – rightly so – looking at how it can support them with these costs.
However, what clearly is the fault of Cheshire East is the establishment two years ago of a whole new Directorate (with the senior salaries that go with it), and the fact it has failed to collect £21 million in outstanding debt. That alone more than covers the predicted shortfall.
Then there is the £11 million spent in in preparation for HS2. I do not understand how a council can claim to spend such a staggering amount of money on something that, not only was not scheduled to be here for 20 years, but also had not yet passed through Parliament.
I also believe there are questions regarding section 106 money – which is affectively money handed over by developers to benefit the area. I raised concerns over this and it was unclear what had or had not been spent. However, what was clear is that the accounts appeared to show a significant amount of money sitting dormant. I think most residents would agree that money is better used for the communities it intended to benefit rather than sit in council coffers.
I am not convinced by the fiscal competence of Cheshire East. I have spoken to the Secretary of State on a number of occasions about my concerns and will continue to do so.
Accountability and transparency are vital across local government, and residents deserve a well-run council that can sustainably and responsibly fund the delivery of good-quality services.
Recently, I have spoken with the newly appointed Chief Executive of the Council Rob Polkinghorne and asked for further information, including where the so-called £11 million recorded as HS2 preparation was spent. Once I have all the answers, I will work with the council to help resolve these issues for the residents of Tatton and Cheshire East as a whole.