CHESHIRE East Council has so far achieved just £35,000 of the £135,000 savings it hoped to make by cutting back on the ‘cost of democracy’.

In its 2023/24 budget, the council agreed last February (2023) to reduce the cost of democracy by £135,000 by taking various measures, including reviewing the number of committees, reducing the use of external venues, freezing councillor allowances and reducing travel and printing costs.

At yesterday’s (Thursday) meeting of the corporate policy committee, Conservative group leader Janet Clowes said: “Originally it was intended that £135,000 be cut from the cost of democracy…

Northwich Guardian: Cllr Janet ClowesCllr Janet Clowes (Image: Cheshire East Council)

“How much of that have we achieved, because obviously there have been a lot of other things that have gone through.”

Brian Reed, head of democratic services, said: “My judgement would be that, with the changes suggested and other efficiencies that we’re always looking for, printing and other efficiencies, we’re possibly in the region of the £35,000 element of that.”

In a bid to achieve the forecast savings, councillors did vote to freeze their allowances for 2023/24.

And suggestions such as cutting back on the number of officers who physically attend meetings to reduce time and travel expenses have also been carried out.

Printed agendas have been replaced by digital, saving both paper and ink costs.

The council also agreed to merge the public rights of way committee with highways and transport to reduce costs.

But members voted against reducing the planning committees from three to two at full council in December - but did not rule out doing it in the future.

And yesterday it was decided the scrutiny committee should also remain in place rather than have its functions incorporated within the relevant service committees.

The role of the council’s scrutiny committee is to scrutinise outside bodies such as the NHS, rather than the council itself.

Cllr Clowes said: “In recent years our roles with outward facing bodies has only increased and is continuing to increase and therefore scrutiny must stay.”

Cllr Liz Wardlaw (Odd Rode, Con), who chairs scrutiny, told the corporate policy committee:  “Any savings made from the abolition of the scrutiny committee will be hugely outweighed, I think, by loss of reputation to the council.”

The corporate policy committee did agree yesterday that the general licensing sub-committee and Licensing Act sub-committee should be amalgamated to form one sub-committee.