Thursday, 9 March 2017

Cllr Lynn Riley's letter to the Chronicle on school funding

Lynn wrote to the Editor of the Chronicle regarding the funding of schools in Cheshire.  The Chronicle didn't publish the letter so I am!

Sir:

Cheshire schools have historically had the lowest levels of pupil funding in England. For decades, councillors of all parties have lobbied to change this and Cheshire West has joined with others in the F40 group (www.f40.org.uk) to make our case to successive Governments.  The F40 along with tens of thousand of people signed Fair Schools Funding petitions wanting an end to the a system where children in Cheshire get on average £4,498 per pupil compared to £6,297 in the 10 highest funded areas where council tax is considerably lower.  Finally, we have a Government that is both listening and acting to change this. The principle of fair funding is uncontroversial and was welcomed by most headteachers in 2016. There were certainly no objections or reports in the press when £9.4m was added to the budget in 2015-16 as the Government provided extra funding to the F40 schools.

The National Funding Formula to make funding fairer for schools and children is currently out to consultation asking for views on the detailed design of the formula. Clearly this doesn’t work for Cheshire schools, West and East and Conservatives on the ground are not afraid to say so. We are however backing it up with action and direct representation to the Minister Nick Gibb and his team at DfE. Both Antoinette Sandbach and Graham Evans our Conservative MPs, have had several direct meetings, both accompanied by a Headteacher from a CWAC secondary and primary school to paint the all important picture of the reality in the classroom. 

Rachel Bailey as Leader of Cheshire East met the Minister after Christmas and as Leader of the Conservative Group I went to London last week for the same reason. I paid for my own tickets as I was told that this was not a Council sanctioned event- I went anyway.  A team from the DfE will be coming to Cheshire before the end of the consultation to work with officers in both Councils to examine the reasons why the proposed formula is indicating reductions for local schools.

The arguments are well evidenced and have been well made, but quietly behind the scenes because we want a solution for our students not a sound bite and an excuse to bash the Government that is attempting to fix an age old issue. At CWAC, Labour claim to be  great believers in consultation and reserve the right to change things according to the response. I’m curious that this principle doesn’t extend to others, particularly the Government. The local mantra is “Let’s Talk” but no-one from Labour seems to be in a hurry to want to talk with Whitehall.

Regards

Lynn Riley

Leader of the Conservative Group, Cheshire West and Chester Council


... and yet more evidence of a CWaC Labour Group more anxious over soundbites than sound management and governance.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The price of Labour's inaction and failure

Labour controlled CWaC voted by a narrow majority of 3 to pass a budget last week that imposes a near 4% rise in council tax - having rejected a Conservative amendment that would have frozen the general council tax yet boost the social care precept by 3%.  We see providing additional funds for social care as a priority.

The Conservatives wanted to see more money in Adult Social care but freezing the general council tax but this was rejected by Labour.  This was even after it was pointed out that CWaC had underspent its budgets last year to such an extent that last years CWaC council tax rise was unnecessary.

In the more than 300 pages of agenda papers 'Frodsham' was mentioned 20 times - but largely in the context of paying the council tax or answering questions that Cllr Riley and I had tabled previously.

There are no budget plans for a Frodsham or Helsby Leisure Centre.  

There are no budget plans for increased station car park capacity in Frodsham or Helsby ahead of the Halton Curve opening in 2018.  I described such failures as both 'shocking' and 'shameful.'

The budget papers claim that the council is looking for growth - yet of the 22,000 additional houses planned for the Borough between 2010-30 there are only 1600 to find - the rest have either been built or have planning permission.  The opportunity to go for growth is there but isn't being taken.

Since Labour took control 2 years ago Frodsham's total council tax has risen by 9% - and decisions by CWaC Labour are largely responsible. 

Frodsham residents' council tax is made up of charges levied by:

  • Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner
  • Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service
  • Cheshire West and Chester Council
  • Cheshire West and Chester Council - Special Expenses 
  • Frodsham Town Council
The total bill paid by a Band D council tax payer in Frodsham will amount to £1,670.67 - a rise of £59.04 over the previous year.  

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service increased their element of the council tax by 1.99%.
This means a £1.43 a year rise on a Band D property from £71.86 to £73.29.

Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner increased his element of the council tax also by 1.99%
This means a £3.21 a year rise on a Band D property from £161.23 to £164.44.

Cheshire West and Chester Council's precept is made up of three elements.  First there is the general council tax.  That was increased by 1.99%.  Then there is the social care precept.  This was increased 2%.  This could have been raised by 3% as a maximum - providing over the course of the following years it does not increase by more than 6%.  (In other words councils can choose to increase by 2% for each of 3 years - or increase by 3% in perhaps two years and then nothing in the third year.).  The third element is special expenses - which for the Frodsham area remains at zero.  The CWaC element of the council tax for the 3,636 Band D equivalent homes is £1374.80.

Finally Frodsham Town Council.  FTC's council tax for the year 17-18 will be £58.14 which is effectively the same as last year (not forgetting it was increased by just short of £20 per year last year or by more than 50%).

If you want to work out your council tax - if you don't live in a Band D property - then all it takes is a bit of maths!

All council tax is worked out on Band D properties.  The charges levied on other bands is a proportion of the Band D charge - worked out on the basis of 9ths.

Band A is 6/9ths of the Band D charge
Band B is 7/9ths of the Band D charge
Band C is 8/9ths of the Band D charge
Band D is 9/9ths of the Band D charge
Band E is 11/9ths of the Band D charge
Band F is 13/9ths of the Band D charge
Band G is 15/9ths of the Band D charge
Band H is 18/9ths of the Band D charge

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Labour's rudderless imagination free budget

Labour controlled CWaC voted by a narrow majority of 3 to pass a budget that imposes a near 4% rise in council tax - having rejected a Conservative amendment that would have frozen the general council tax yet boost the social care precept by 3%.

The Conservatives wanted to see more money in Adult Social care - but this was rejected by Labour.

In the more than 300 pages of agenda papers 'Frodsham' was mentioned 20 times - but largely in the context of paying the council tax or answering questions that Cllr Riley and I had tabled previously.

There are no budget plans for a Frodsham or Helsby Leisure Centre.  There are no budget plans for increased station car park capacity in Frodsham or Helsby ahead of the Halton Curve opening in 2018.

The budget papers claim that the council is looking for growth - yet of the 22,000 additional houses planned for the Borough between 2010-30 there are only 1600 to find - the rest have either been built or have planning permission.  The opportunity to go for growth is there but isn't being taken.

Since Labour took control 2 years ago Frodsham's total council tax has risen by 9% - and decisions by CWaC Labour are largely responsible.