LAST week our financial plans for the next year were approved by the council’s cabinet and will go forward to the full council early next month.

I am pleased to say that our budget includes no cuts to services and no job losses, despite having to find £9m worth of efficiencies.

It is testament to the success of The Deal that we are in this position.

Although we have been able to offer a freeze in general council tax for the past seven years, councils continue to face significant financial challenges and this year we are proposing to have a 0.99 per cent increase.

It is not a decision we take lightly but the funding settlement from central government relies heavily on councils raising tax bills by the maximum available to them.

This is in addition the three per cent rise as part of the government’s adult social care precept.

The 3.99 per cent rise in the borough, therefore, is lower than the 4.99 factored into the government’s calculations.

I will continue to urge central government in the strongest terms to reconsider their funding plans generally, but particularly in the social care sector where the onus should not be on tax payers to foot the bill of rising demand.

By the time you are reading this column we will have had the Prime Minister’s announcement which is expected to map out plans for the easing of lockdown.

It is encouraging to see that both our case rates have been falling steadily in recent weeks and our vaccination roll-out has progressed at a fast pace.

We are at another important moment and I urge everyone to keep following the public health guidelines and not undo any of the hard work that has got us to this point.

You may have also seen that Census 2021 is approaching with Census Day itself falling on March 21.

It’s something that comes around once a decade and it’s important that all households fill in their information.

Lots of organisations such as councils and charities use the information to help provide the services that each one of us relies upon, such as transport, education and healthcare.

It is overseen by the Office of National Statistics but we will be encouraging everyone to take part locally and to help friends and relatives fill in the questionnaire. More details will be provided as we approach the day.

Please can I also add a further reminder for residents to take part in a consultation about our long-term plans for Leigh Town Centre.