Agenda item

Leader's and Deputy Leader's Announcements

To receive such announcements as may be made by the Leader and Deputy Leader.




The Leader, in summary:


1             reported that Nottingham was the latest council to issue a section 114 notice, effectively declaring its self-bankrupt. The Leader noted that all councils were under severe financial pressure. He stated that this Council was in a better position than many because it had a fully balanced four-year financial strategy and a good record in recent years of financial discipline. However, the Council currently had a forecast deficit for the current year of £13m, so financial saving needed to be made.


2             stated that over two thirds of the Council’s budget was on adults and children’s social care and that there had been significant cost increases in both areas. The increase in costs for children’s social care was linked to the Children and Families Act 2014 which had led to an increased demand without central government providing the necessary funding or providing increase capacity. There was a shortage of places which had led to an increase in cost and an increase in travel costs with children being placed out of the Borough. The excess costs had been put into a negative reserve until 2026.


3             stated that he would like to see improved special education needs and disability provision in schools and more specialist provision in Cheshire East. However, the Council could not set up a new school on its own and had to work with external partners to set up so called free schools, which added further complexity and time. These were statutory services, and this left non statutory services at risk of further cuts.


4             stated that the Chancellor would be announcing shortly the funding settlements for Councils. If there was no extra money, there would be little choice but to make further cuts in services to balance the books. He thanked staff who were working to address these challenges.


5             stated that tackling climate change had been a key theme since he had become Leader of the Council and the sub region. He had co-chaired the Cheshire and Warrington Sustainable and Inclusive Growth Commission and encouraged all to read their report. He had spoken on climate change at the Northwest Route to Net Zero conference in Liverpool, the Northwest Regional Leaders’ Board and at the County Council’s Network Conference.


6          stated that he was pleased to see that the Solar Together Scheme had won a Green Expo Award for Innovation in Energy. He stated that one reason people were reluctant to install solar panels and batteries was caution about the reputed reliability of the supplier. The Council was addressing this by partnering with IChoosr Ltd to bring Solar Together to Cheshire East’s homeowners and encouraged all elected members to promote the Solar Together scheme.



The Deputy Leader, in summary:


1             reported that following the decision to cancel HS2, the Government was intending to allocate additional Locally Integrated Transport Settlement funding for Cheshire East.  Further details on how much funding the Council would be allocated and supporting guidance were expected early in the New Year.


2             stated that Cheshire East sat at the heart of a region which had one of the strongest science and technology clusters in the UK and within this region were a number of major employers including Manchester Airport, Barclays Radbroke Campus, Astra Zeneca Macclesfield Campus, and Alderley Park.This area, which bordered Greater Manchester, had limited public transport options to service these businesses and local communities. The additional funding allocation of Locally Integrated Transport Settlements could be used as part of a public/private partnership to introduce an electric tram bus service, which would provide a sustainable, integrated network to connect these areas, unlocking growth, supporting sustainable travel and reducing congestion. 


3             reported that last month he, together with officers from Cheshire East Council, had met with the Commissioner of Transport for Greater Manchester (TFGM) to explore ways of working together. TFGM had confirmed that TFGM System One travel cards could be used for a number of bus services which also serviced Cheshire East. Further details about eligible services would be provided shortly. TFGM were also supportive on Cheshire East’s position following the Government’s decision to cancel HS2 north and that any future development works on HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail should ensure that Crewe Station is included.


4             reported that the full business case and accompanying technical documents for the Middlewich Eastern Bypass scheme were submitted to the Department for Transport (DfT) on 11 October 2023 for their approval.  The Council had since been informed by DfT that their final decision would not be made until the New Year, rather than in December as originally anticipated, and with this in mind the Council was currently assessing options that would enable the scheme to keep to its original programme of a start on site in early 2024.


5             reported that the Council had hosted its first Bus Partnership Forum at Alderley Park Conference Centre on 26th October 2023.  This Forum was a key part of the arrangements that have been put in place to improve local bus services in Cheshire East, by working in partnership with the local bus operators.  The need for a stronger dialogue and closer partnership working had been emphasised more than ever this year as the network faced challenges of passenger numbers still recovering after the pandemic, cost inflation and, in April, the complete withdrawal of services by Arriva North-West. The Forum meeting had brought together representatives of local bus companies, passenger groups including Transport Focus, major employers and elected members and officers of the Council.  Workshop events considered what could be done to improve bus services in the Borough, including services, ticketing, vehicles, passenger facilities and passenger information.  The outcomes of the Forum would help to guide the planning for use of Bus Service Improvement Plan funds that were made available to the Council.


6     reported that the Council was progressing a package of schemes in the north of the Borough, as identified in the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, with the Council allocating £1.2m towards the northern part of the scheme on Manchester Road.   The Council had been invited to apply for funding from the Active Travel scheme for the southern part of the scheme.