IT is business as usual at Cheshire East Council as it plans next year’s budget while the Government pushes to secure a Brexit deal.

The local authority has begun its pre-budget consultation for 2019-20, which maps out possible investments and savings for the year ahead – and a mooted 2.99 per cent council tax rise.

At a scrutiny meeting on Thursday where cabinet members and top officers were grilled on the draft budget’s details, Cllr Beverley Dooley, Conservative, asked what plans were in place to mitigate the possible impact of Britain leaving the European Union without a deal in place.

She said: “Unfortunately, Brexit is going to be on March 29.

“It’s something we have to recognise. Business is having to do it, and we have all had to put something in place.

“I would like to know what this council has got in place to make sure that services are going to be protected as best as possible, and I do appreciate that none of us have got a crystal ball.”

Last month, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that a deal for Brexit is ’95 per cent complete’.

But negotiations between her Government and the EU appear to have hit a brick wall in recent months over a number of critical issues, such as the Irish border.

Cllr Paul Bates, CEC cabinet member for finance and communication, told the committee that he had attended a meeting with officers on Tuesday regarding Brexit and its impact on issues such as contract procurement.

“I think the only answer they could give us is that they haven’t got any answers,” he said.

“There was no clear indication, but what they were saying to us was ‘business as usual until you get the details’.

“So that’s what we have got to do, it is business as usual, we’ve got to work with the rules and regulations we have got now.”

The Conservative councillor for Congleton West added that CEC officers have been doing plenty of work in the background to assess the risk that Brexit could pose.

Alex Thompson, CEC’s head of finance and performance, told the committee that he did not expect Brexit to have a major impact on the council’s revenue budget.

He added: “We look at risk factors all the time, we also speak to external auditors, and there has been no clear, concise area of risk that local authority finances are exposed to in relation to Brexit that has given us any kind of way of improving the forecasts that are in this [consultation].

“That said, do I think – in my capacity as ultimately trying to sign off a balanced set of figures – that there is risk associated with Brexit? Well yes, clearly there is.

“While we are in the consultation period there is every possibility that more news will come out. Before you get the final budget in February, we should be a little bit clearer.

“We do not have large amounts of European funding associated with our revenue costs, so that shouldn’t be putting our day-to-day services at risk.

“There is a possibility infrastructure projects may have a slightly different impact, but again that isn’t clear, that’s just me speculating.”

CEC’s budget plans are set to be considered in more detail by the council’s scrutiny committees before the consultation ends on December 14.

To view the plans and take part in the consultation, visit