BOROUGH chiefs have delivered a budget surplus for the fourth year in a row – despite failing to meet one-third of their savings targets.

Cheshire West and Chester Council ended 2018-19 with £500,000 extra in its coffers than it intended – having spent £279.8 million, rather than the £280.3 million it budgeted for.

And it comes despite CWAC making £7.2 million of the £11.2 million worth of savings it had planned in its budget for last year.

Cllr Carol Gahan, cabinet member for finance and legal, told CWAC’s overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday: “This is a considerable achievement considering the financial challenges currently facing local government and demonstrates the effective financial management within the council.

“Despite national statements from central Government to the contrary, austerity unfortunately is still with us.

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“This local authority continues to benefit from sound and prudent financial decisions, its willingness to consider future pressures, and where possible makes provision to mitigate their consequences.”

The Labour member for Blacon told councillors that of the £4 million worth of savings the council had targeted, £2.8 million is expected to be saved in 2019-20.

A further £300,000 which was due to be saved last year is now expected to follow in 2020-21 – but £900,000 of the targeted savings are no longer considered deliverable.

“Sixty-five per cent delivery should be seen as a real achievement,” she added.

“These savings are being made against a backdrop of continued cuts to our local government finances, and so-called ‘easy wins’ have already been achieved.

“The savings that are now being identified are being achieved through increasingly innovative service redesign and delivery options.”

Cllr Harry Tonge, Conservative member for Tarvin and Kelsall, was not impressed that a third of the savings had not been achieved.

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He said: “These are policy options that the administration had put forward yourselves. You were only expecting two-thirds of them to be delivered?

“Do we now accept that 65 per cent is the norm that we should be achieving in terms of delivery?

“If you are identifying the saving that should be something which you then believe is achievable.”

Responding to Cllr Tonge, Cllr Gahan said: “We have a 90 per cent target going forward in 2019-20 and we will be working hard to do it.

“But we need to consider that some of these savings are new ways of working, new schemes, some of this is people moving into new areas in order to make these savings.

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“It is becoming increasingly difficult to drive up the savings while still delivering our services.”