There are big challenges ahead – so we need a Big Conversation
Shropshire Council, alongside its partners, will launch the Big Conversation at a meeting of Cabinet today (Wednesday 28 October 2015).
The idea of a Big Conversation follows the significant financial challenges that the council faces as a result of years of cuts by central government to its funding.
These challenges are highlighted in the council’s Financial Strategy 2015/16 – 2020/21, which will be discussed at today’s meeting.
Like all councils, Shropshire Council needs to make further substantial savings in the coming years. Since 2009, the council has removed £146m from its budget.
By 2021 the Government’s £44m revenue support grant – money that is paid to councils each year to help provide services – will end.
By the time this grant ends, it is estimated that the council will need to save a further £77m, due to the combination of inflationary increases in costs and further cuts in Government grants.
The council has already started to make some headway to tackle the deficit, and has been working hard to find solutions to central government cuts by working with partners and the local community to redesign services and make them more cost effective, whilst maintaining quality.
As a result, the council’s adult social care services, which represents a significant proportion of budget, have been determined by external bodies as being the highest quality and the lowest cost. The council’s wholly-owned company, ip&e, continues to win external contracts that will generate profit to support the council and Shropshire communities.
Shropshire Council will continue to look at ways to raise income, redesign its services and work with local communities to run services themselves. However, this won’t make up for the funding that it expects to be cut by the Government. Neither will it be able to meet cuts with efficiencies.
In a bid to raise public awareness of these challenges, as part of its Big Conversation, the council will be talking and listening to residents and community groups about how best to face the tough financial challenges together.
Keith Barrow, Shropshire Council’s Leader, said:
“We are excited to launch our Big Conversation and we are looking forward to hearing your views on the services you value, the services you don’t, and the services you may consider to deliver yourselves, or as part of your community.
“We will be collecting your views in various different ways over the coming months, and years, as we work together to prioritise the services that matter most to you.
“We really want to know what you think, we will listen and we will feedback what we have done. It’s about you, not just about us.”
Clive Wright, Shropshire Council’s chief executive, added:
“Today marks the start of the conversation.
“In order to make informed choices, it’s important that everyone is aware of the substantial financial challenges we face. As we’ve said previously, we’ve managed to maintain quality services so far, but things are getting more difficult.
“Through our Big Conversation we’ll be collecting all your views and they’ll be part of the feedback councillors will get before they make any decisions about the council’s future budget, and what services it will provide in the years ahead.”
An online survey is being planned for November, and this will be followed up with talking to as many people as possible, holding face to face meetings, holding public meetings and through focus groups.
To find out more about how you can get involved please visit shropshire.gov.uk/big-conversation. To get involved email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To view the financial strategy click here.