By Ted Lush - 26th January 2014 6:00am
Cheshire West and Chester Borough Council (CWaC) is currently consulting on budget proposals which will cover the 3 years beginning 1 April 2014. Whoever you are, what CWaC does will affect you. Over the next 3 years the Council wants to save £49million or 20% of their current budget. These savings are in addition to £113m of savings achieved since CWaC came into existence in April 2008.
The detailed list of proposals can be found here on the Council website. The closing date for public comments is 9 February.
This report picks out just some of the proposals being considered.
On school transport the Council proposes to save £251,000 in the 2014/15 financial year, building up to £490,000 per annum by 31 March 2017. There has been a separate, more detailed consultation on school transport proposals and if implemented these will adversely impact on current and future parents of secondary aged children in Tarvin. This is because if Tarvin children attend Tarporley High School, currently the most common choice of Tarvin parents, they will be charged for school transport under CWaC proposals. This is despite Tarvin children living more than 3 miles from any secondary school (3 miles is the distance after which school transport has to be provided for secondary aged pupils). The reason that CWaC would be able to impose a charge for Tarvin pupils attending Tarporley is that it is not the closest secondary school: three other secondary schools, Christleton, Bishop's and Upton are all closer than Tarporley. As these three schools are pretty much at their physical capacity it is hard to see how they could accommodate Tarvin children should Tarvin parents make one of them their first choice.
Concessionary Bus Fares
There is a proposal to reduce the cost of the concessionary fares scheme by reducing the amount paid to bus operators, but the Council says that this will not affect pass-holders. The consultation does not say how operators will achieve a cut of £340,000 in 2014/15, moving to a total annual saving of £662,000 by 31 March 2017, but after making some efficiencies it might be anticipated that the only way will be to reduce the number of buses running a particular route and therefore to reduce the frequency. Assuming no reduction in passenger numbers this would mean more crowded buses, particularly at peak times.
Reduction in Telephone Contact Numbers
The Council hopes that it will be able to save over £800,000 by reducing the number of dedicated telephone contact numbers and encouraging more web-based access to services. This will impact on those residents who do not have a computer. Work done on superfast broadband by the Tarvin Parish Plan team suggests that 20% of Tarvin households do not have access to the internet at home.
Current Library provision
CWaC wants to save £550,000 on libraries by reviewing current provision. This could potentially involve providing some services in a different way or from a different location. Community "conversations" are planned to discuss alternative approaches to delivering library services.
Garden Waste Collection changes
The Council is considering stopping the fortnightly garden waste collection for four months each year, starting in November 2015. Cheshire East implemented a very similar policy in the current financial year and because of the public outcry the Council had to allow residents to use their household waste bins for garden waste. CWaC has not indicated in their consultation if they have a contingency plan should anyone object to the withdrawal of this service between November and February each year.
On Highways maintenance CWaC hopes to save £1m per annum by March 2016. They plan to achieve this through savings in ancillary works such as grass and hedge cutting and joining up activities with Streetscene. Once again after the budget has been set the Council plans community-based "conversations" to identify possible alternative service delivery methods.
The paragraphs above give a flavour of some of the CWaC budget proposals. Everyone should have a view on what CWaC does because it is spending the taxes you pay. I encourage you to look at the full consultation and tell CWaC what you feel. If you don't want to complete the formal consultation form contact your local CWaC Borough Councillors Hugo Deynem (tel: 01829 751830 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org ) or John Leather(tel: 01829 752558 or email: email@example.com )