BOROUGH chiefs have delivered a budget surplus for the third year in a row – but the opposition claims residents are not getting value for money.

A report brought to cabinet last Wednesday (June 6) showed that Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) delivered a surplus of £0.4 million against its approved budget in 2017-18.

While the council overspent on its service budgets by £0.4 million, this was offset by an overall surplus of £0.8 million.

In the report Debbie Hall, director of finance at CWaC, praised the result as a ‘significant achievement’ given the financial challenges the council has faced.

But Cllr Lynn Riley, leader of the Conservative opposition, suggested a third consecutive year of surplus was an ‘ongoing concern’ at a time council tax has increased year-on-year.

“We must always remember that this is not our money,” she said.

“It is raised from hard-working people and businesses, and as such it is our duty to offer them value for their money.

“This is a very simple principle – if we are going to take it from them, we should be getting the most from every penny.

“Every penny matters, so I would like an explanation as to where the money has got to.”

The member for Frodsham added that the report showed an underspend in areas such as housing, skills and public health.

She also pointed out that there had been an underspend in highways capital – which she described as ‘unprecedented’.

Cllr Riley added: “If you drive around the borough as we all do, it’s obvious that there is much to do and literally every penny unspent is a pothole unfilled.”

However, Cllr David Armstrong, cabinet member for legal and finance, insisted that there are ‘extremely complex’ issues the council has had to deal with.

He said: “The zero-budgeting process is an additional process that is taking place as we speak. We have a group of officers and a group of members looking at every aspect of the council’s spend.

“It is not part of our precise budgeting at this moment, it is looking at each area and trying to look at the most effective and best way we can possibly spend money because we know our residents want value for money.

“Over the last four years this administration has had to find £57 million in reductions, in cuts to the services that we’ve been able to give.

“That’s £13 million a year which has been extremely challenging, and the idea of suggesting that we have been in any way spending money inappropriately, it doesn’t even bear consideration.”