Shropshire Council expecting to set a balanced budget for next year
A report by Shropshire Council’s auditors – Grant Thornton – is due to be considered by the council’s audit committee today (12 September 2019). However, their report was submitted before the government’s recent spending round announcement, which has improved the council’s financial position.
Peter Nutting, leader of Shropshire Council, said:
“Following the spending round announcement on 4 September – which has improved our financial position – we’re expecting to set a balanced budget for next year whilst retaining up to £17m of reserves – held specifically to help manage the budget – for future years.
“Shropshire Council has been working hard to continue to protect public facing services such as the leisure and culture offer, highway maintenance, libraries, waste management, environmental maintenance and all those things which communities see and use in our everyday lives. We know people rely on these services and so we lobby the government hard to ensure that Shropshire gets a fair share of grants and financial support and we believe they are listening to us.
“We know that to become financially sustainable and deliver good value to taxpayers we need to continue to innovate and become even more efficient – just like every business has to. To achieve this we are investing to generate new income as well as exploiting new technology which enables new, more efficient, ways of working. We are now at a point when delivering through our own staff is often more reliable and cost-effective than some outsourcing. This innovation and entrepreneurial approach with our developing ‘can do’ culture continues to deliver a better budget out-turn than projected year-on-year. Our services are good quality and low cost by comparison. We have more projects underway than ever before. We are confident, therefore, that we will continue to find new and better ways of delivering the outcomes that our communities need, within the budget available, whilst maintaining Shropshire as a fantastic place to live and work.
“Adults and children’s social care continue to increase in costs by over £10 million per year as vulnerable people in our communities need our support more than ever before. Shropshire is a high performer in looking after people. We expect that the government will bring in a fair funding solution for social care and this would be a long overdue boost and could solve the gap in our financial projections. Although we don’t know precisely when this will be, it is recognised that more funding in the NHS alone, which we acknowledge is necessary, will not solve the problem of bringing people into more affordable but appropriate care settings. Often, people don’t realise that the council’s social care staff play a critical role in this, working alongside our NHS partners. We believe that proper funding of children’s and adults social care will be forthcoming in the very near future.
“People recognise that it has been a tough few years for council funds. We have 40% fewer staff delivering more than before. So far we have made on-going annual savings of £227m since 2009/10. As we see these financial challenges coming we are never afraid to meet them head on and we will continue to keep budgets under control whilst still delivering on the ground, as we always have done.
“Shropshire residents should be reassured that we have an efficient and innovative council committed to meeting the needs of our communities within the resources available. We have exciting plans with development, new roads, housing and investment taking place to ensure that we continue to prosper.”