WEST Cheshire residents will pay 4.99 per cent more council tax from April after Cheshire West and Chester Council members voted to approve this year’s budget.

At a full council meeting tonight Cllr David Armstrong, Labour member for Winsford Swanlow and Dene and cabinet member for legal and finance, put forward the budget for 2018-19.

He told members that the budget includes a two per cent tax rise for adult social care, a one per cent rise to help cover the growing cost of CWAC’s looked-after children’s services, and 1.99 per cent to ‘just about keep up’ with inflation.

The budget also includes £1.3 million set aside to help attract businesses to Barons Quay, another £1.3 million for Winsford Cross, £1 million for CWAC’s ‘reducing the inequality gap’ fund, and a £6 million ‘future investment fund’ reserve.

Ahead of the budget debate, Cllr Armstrong asked the Conservative opposition: “Do any of you have the integrity to make the right decision when it comes to voting for the budget proposals put before you?

“Do you have the courage to actually vote for what is right?”

Members rejected a Conservative amendment to increase council tax by 3.5 per cent instead of 4.99 per cent.

The amendment included a further £1.5 million to spend on highways and £350,000 to retain ‘free after three’ parking in Chester, but reduced funding for inequality support.

Cllr Neil Sullivan, shadow cabinet member for finance, said: “If you are serious about looking after the many and not the few then you have got to think about the council tax payer.”

Cllr Jill Houlbrook, Conservative member for Upton, added: “The unnecessary increase in council tax will affect us all, but most of all it will hurt the very people that find they can’t put milk in the fridge – the very people that Labour claims to support.”

The budget report put before councillors stated that CWAC faces a £11.8 million funding gap for 2018-19 – with additional cost pressures, such as social care provision, estimated at more than £9 million.

It highlighted that the Government’s revenue support grant will be reduced from £19.2 million over the past year, to £11.3 million in 2018-19, and down to nil by 2020-21.

Cllr Samantha Dixon, leader of CWAC, warned members that raising council tax is a decision that authorities across the country have been faced with because of the policies of central Government.

She said: “We are in the most sustained period of austerity since the Second World War – it is damaging the fabric of our nation.

“It needs to end, and it needs to end now.”

Members voted in favour of the budget by 37 to 33.

The budget also sets £2.9 million aside for junction improvements at Gadbrook Park, £2 million for Winsford town regeneration, £1.3 million for the restoration of heritage buildings in Northwich, and £400,000 for the restoration of the coronation salt store at Lion Salt Works.