£40m wiped off council's budget
MORE than £40 million has been slashed from a council's budget.
The money has been taken out of Cheshire East Council's capital programme, which it uses to fund strategic projects, which are in addition to its essential services, such as school expansions, building works or regeneration schemes.
The cuts will hit projects such as a plan to build a specialist school for children with autism on the site of the former Church Lawton Primary School, which was originally due to receive funding to the tune of £2.9 million. That has now been slashed to £6,347.
Plans for that project have also been hit by Government red tape, as the council has been told it must find a sponsor to run the school, which would cater for children aged four to 19 years old.
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In addition, special needs provision for 11 to 12-year-old children across the district has been axed completely, saving the council £950,000.
A total of £150,000 set aside for Weston Cemetery, near Crewe, has also been taken out of the capital programme – as has £845,000 earmarked for the regeneration of Crewe.
Crewe has also been hit by a £874,000 reduction in the budget for refurbishing Crewe Town Square with funds now standing at just over £2m.
Crewe East councillor Chris Thorley said: "Crewe is being neglected by Cheshire East.
"The money for the regeneration of Crewe could have been spent on moving the bus station to stand by the railway station, then we could have had a park and ride scheme to the Grand Junction Retail Park."
Councillor Sam Corcoran, who represents Sandbach Heath and East, said: "It's hard to argue the council isn't short of money. It can't afford to do some of these projects.
"But why were they in the capital programme in the first place?
"The Audit Commission has told us that the council is running out of money and cannot continue to use reserves, but we were previously told all these projects were required to save money in future.
"I commend the finance portfolio holder for identifying unnecessary and wasteful projects, but I do wonder why his predecessor didn't identify any of these £42 million of savings.
Conservative councillor Peter Raynes, cabinet member for finance, said: "We have carried out a comprehensive review of all schemes included in the capital programme with a view to making financial savings, as well as releasing resources that will enable other schemes to come forward.
"This review has allowed us to make new investments in projects that are of the utmost importance to the council.
"Cheshire East still supports the local economy with a large capital programme of over £70 million."