COUNCIL leader Russ Bowden talks council tax and forums in his latest column

A major decision was made last week by the executive board to recommend our budget to full council.

The next key milestone will be the council meeting on Monday, when all councillors will be given the opportunity to have their say and vote on it.

A crucial aspect of this year’s budget relies on the vital support you, Warrington’s residents, give each year through council tax. It’s true that our council tax rate is one of the lowest in the region, but we understand that a proposed 2.98 per cent rise in 2019/20 still means less money in your pocket each year. The grim reality is that we have no other option.

The massive cuts in Government funding mean that we rely on council tax more than ever, but even the money we raise through it each year doesn’t cover the cost of children’s services and adult social care. And we aren’t alone – the BBC reported last week that ‘almost all’ councils plan to increase council tax.

Despite the continued cuts and pressures, we remain positive about our wonderful town and the things that are happening through our capital programme. Time Square will revitalise the town centre and continues apace. The Cenotaph has been safely removed so that work can commence to stabilise the river bank before the memorial is reinstated.

And our long standing ambition to deliver a community hub for the people of Bewsey and Dallam is now moving forward. This investment in the hub is crucial, even in these austere times, with the social benefit that comes from supporting the health and wellbeing of residents.

Finally, I’d like to thank all the residents who turned up for the first leaders forum. It was a good opportunity for us to have some positive, constructive discussions and I enjoyed getting ‘out and about’ in the community.

Topics raised included littering and fly tipping, improving transport infrastructure and the Local Plan - which is our planning framework for Warrington’s development over the next 20 years. The draft Local Plan will be taken by the Executive Board next month and I will discuss this in my next column.

The Forum provided me with a chance to bust some myths and explain the wider context of a number of local priorities and issues. By hosting more Forums, I hope to be able to meet with other residents and continue the discussions. I’ll be adding more dates and venues for future forums, so please keep an eye on for information.