CHESHIRE West cabinet members have been challenged on their council tax plans by Conservative councillor Neil Sullivan.

During CWAC’s Medium Term Financial Review, Cllr Sullivan, who represents the Handbridge Park ward, said: “It will be a great comfort if residents could hear that council tax will not be increased by more than two percent.”

Cllr Sullivan directed his challenge to Cllr Carol Gahan, who is the cabinet member for legal and finance and presented the review.

Cllr Gahan replied: “The level at which the council tax referendum limit over the financial planning period has not yet been confirmed.

“But the central government’s working assumption, for planning purposes, is two percent. This council has abided by that referendum limit.

“There was an additional two percent [for the] adult social care precept, which were able to apply last year. This is because it hasn’t come through from the central government, and we have had to go out to our local residents to help fund adult social care in our community.”

The referendum limit is the amount on which authorities can raise council tax year-on-year, without holding a council-wide referendum on a larger increase.

The limit is currently two percent, and is set by Westminster.

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Additionally, councils have been able to add an extra two percent ‘precept’ to solely help with the costs of adult social care.

The financial report, which was noted by cabinet members, showed the latest estimations of the impact of Covid-19 on CWAC were better than first thought.

This was due to ‘anticipated reimbursements from CCG [clinical commissioning group] of £1.2 million towards eligible costs and £0.8 million from development account.’

That leaves a shortfall of £5.5 million, which CWAC says will be bridged by using £1.4 million of reserves, £3.3 million worth of ‘budget reprioritization’, and £800,000 of underspends.

Furthermore, it was revealed that CWAC is facing an £57 million funding gap from 2021-25.

The figure comprises an extra £89 million in costs, and an expected £32 million rise in locally generated income, via council tax and business rates.