Shropshire Council Leader invites Minister to Shropshire to discuss financial challenges
The Leader of Shropshire Council has written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to highlight the financial challenges that Shropshire Council is facing – and to invite him to visit the county to see these problems at first hand.
Malcolm Pate has written to Sajid Javid MP following last week’s announcement about funding for adult social care (see notes) which he says has actually left Shropshire Council worse off, due to related changes to the New Homes Bonus.
In his letter he says that the impact of the adult social care grant has been to shift funding to metropolitan areas. He refers to an analysis by the Society of County Treasurers which demonstrates that the impact of the provisional settlement has left Shropshire the 37th worst affected authority out of 38 when considering the council’s core spending power between 2016/17 and 2017/18, “making an already poor position even worse”.
Councillor Pate says:
“I wanted to make it clear to the Minister that last week’s adult social care announcement just won’t make any difference to the financial challenges that we face.
“We’ve made clear to the Government on a number of occasions the challenging position that Shropshire Council finds itself in, and argued strongly for fairer funding for Shropshire. After last week’s announcement I felt that I needed to make this argument again.
“I have told the Minister that we should be an exemplar for government as we consistently deliver better services than other authorities at much lower cost across the board. Indeed, we have frequent visits from other authorities because they want to see how we do it. I’ve said that this cannot be sustained with more cuts and we are rapidly reaching a point where we will be unable to afford adult social care alone, despite being amongst the authorities with the lowest cost per head for this service.”
In his letter Councillor Pate explains that Shropshire has an above average elderly population (almost 30% more over 65s than the national average), and makes clear the difficult situation that Shropshire Council finds itself in compared to other local authority areas. He says that compared to the average local authority area Shropshire Council receives around £35 million less in the local authority and £110 million less in our NHS system, a gap of almost £150 million per year in the local economy.
In reference to Government plans to allow councils to retain the business rates that they collect, he says that with an economy built largely around agricultural and small businesses Shropshire has an excellent economy, driving growth and creating jobs, but with low business rate potential. Of the 12,000 businesses registered in Shropshire, the 100 biggest businesses pay almost 30% of the business rates that the council collects.
Councillor Pate says:
“I have told the Minister that as more small businesses are taken out of consideration through the rise in Small Business Rate thresholds from April 2017, the council’s income potential will fall and this percentage will rise. We are delivering a prosperous and growing economy in Shropshire despite the fact that it generates very little funding with which the council can provide essential services.
“I have urged him to recognise the very real problems being created in Shropshire and to properly reconsider and immediately address these issues fairly.
“I have invited him to visit Shropshire to meet with me and the county’s MPs and I hope he will accept this invitation.”
The Government announced last week that councils could raise council tax by three per cent next year and the year after to fund adult social care.