THE council’s coffers could take a hit in future if Brexit harms businesses across the borough.

Cheshire East Council will approve its Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) for 2019 to 2022 at the full council meeting on February 21.

That includes the budget from 2019-20, which will come into effect on April 1 – just three days after the country is due to leave the European Union.

Borough chiefs say they have protected their levels of borrowing in case the markets are hit by Brexit, but a harmful impact on Cheshire East’s small businesses could affect the council’s budget in years to come.

Cllr Paul Bates, cabinet member for finance and communications, said: “The biggest risk comes a little bit further down the line.

Winsford Guardian:

“I would say that the biggest threat from Brexit is those small and medium enterprises (SMEs), of which CEC relies on so greatly – particularly on business rate retention.

“When you are looking at 75 per cent retention of business rates going forward, with the amount of business rates we have, it is a risk.”

The Government announced in 2017 that local authorities will retain 75 per cent of their business rates from 2020-21, with the remaining 25 per cent going back to the Treasury to invest in councils across the country.

And according to the Skills and Growth Company, there are 20,000 SMEs in the borough – making it crucial for the council that those businesses can continue to thrive.

Alex Thompson, head of finance and performance at CEC, added: “About 92 per cent of our net revenue budget is funded by local taxation – that’s business rates and council tax.

“So if there is an impact, if any kind of economic shock comes out of Brexit, that will ripple through to our finances.

“The fact that Government and most forecasters are not suggesting there is going to be that economic shock – it might only be the markets that are affected – we have future-proofed a lot of our borrowing and lending to make sure our whole budget is not exposed to issues on the market.

“The only issues that we have are either longer-term or they are not material.”