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Leaders Blog - February 2017

As you will have seen in the media we are all very disappointed to see that the promise of toll-free access to the new Mersey Gateway Bridge has been withdrawn. I will continue to speak to ministers to fight for a fair deal for the people of our borough.


We are currently in the process of finalising our budget for the coming year. In fact, in this case, it will be for four years. The government has cut funding to Warrington Borough Council by £92million since 2010. By 2020 we will have to save at least another £41million.

At the same time, demand on services is growing as people live longer and the borough’s population continues to grow. We want to protect services for vulnerable people, such as social care for children and adults, while also doing our best to maintain other services such as waste and recycling collection, street cleaning and roads maintenance.

One common misconception people have is thinking that we are spending council tax money on building projects and investments. This is not the case. There are two streams of funding for a council:

Revenue funding - is money that we can only use for day-to-day spending like running services, staff costs and paying bills. The money is from council tax, business rates, fees we charge for services and money we make from our assets.  It is revenue funding which is affected by government cuts.  We aren't allowed to borrow money to fund day-to-day services.

 

Capital funding – is money that we can only use to invest in long term projects or to buy assets which will generate income in the future (which we can then use as 'revenue' to deliver services to you). This capital money comes from specific grants and low interest loans.

So, the council does not spend money on buildings and investments instead of services - they are two different funds. The money we make from our capital investments will be used to help run your public services in the future.  This is the only way we can plug the gap between increasing demand from our residents and reduced funding from the government.

Also this month Warrington Borough Council’s executive board is to be asked to approve plans for a devolution deal with Cheshire as our preferred option and going to the next stage of the process. The proposals would see Warrington forming a sub-regional partnership with Cheshire West and Chester Council, and Cheshire East Council. Devolution would support Warrington’s ‘New City’ programme, fuelling investment and growth in the borough.Warrington is a growing and vibrant borough and it’s vital that we do everything in our power to maximise this potential. We are in agreement that the model of devolved powers from Whitehall will place us in the strongest position to realise our ambitions.

 

As public finances become increasingly challenging, having local decision-making powers over significant areas of national government spend on local services, will be hugely beneficial for Warrington. It would also leave us well placed to play a key role in the proposed ‘Northern Powerhouse’.

The Centre for Cities ‘Outlook 2017’ report, an annual 'health check' on economies around the country, had more good news for Warrington.

Our employment rate is in the country's top 10 at 78.5 per cent between July 2015 and June 2016. Meanwhile, the number of residents who hold formal qualifications is 94.5 per cent - joint eighth nationally.

This is great news for Warrington and I'm delighted that we continue to perform well on a national scale. This report is a clear indicator that we continue to punch above our weight in a number of key areas. It shows we're heading in the right direction and that the work we are doing to create a successful, thriving and prosperous borough is paying off.