Shropshire leaders speak to Secretary of State to discuss further funding for the county
The Leader of Shropshire Council, along with Shropshire’s MPs, this week (Tuesday 23 June 2020) spoke to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, to lobby for further funding for the county.
The meeting had been arranged in response to the growing funding pressures being faced by the council due to the ongoing reduction in Government funding, and rising costs and demands in adult and children’s social care. Furthermore, this year there have been additional pressures due to the financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The briefing to the Secretary of State outlined the key challenges faced by the council, which included:
- Government funding for the direct financial impact of COVID-19 on the council is currently less than half the estimated cost. Spending to support local social care providers, emergency expenditure, as well as lost income from sources such as car parking, planning applications and Theatre Severn, is estimated to reach £36m over the period so far. Shropshire’s allocation, from a national pot of £3.2bn so far, is currently less than £18m. A greater allocation of funding, and security over lost income, was requested.
- The Business Grants scheme launched by the Government provided Shropshire businesses with almost £91.7m of grant support. The Government’s own rules prevent the council allocating all of this funding, so greater flexibility was requested to use these grants to support Shropshire’s unique economy, rather than return it to the Government.
- Lobbying for a fair funding deal for Shropshire Council has been a priority for the Leader and local MPs for a number of years. Without the impact of COVID-19, Shropshire has continually made the case for additional annual funding of £50m, growing by around £10m per year to meet the growing costs of service delivery, including social care.
Peter Nutting, Leader of Shropshire Council, said:-
“Shropshire Council has been working hard and making unprecedented efficiencies, whilst transforming public services through innovation, technology and by being more commercial. This process never stops, and we are relentless in exploring new ways to deliver better services at lower cost.
“However, as outlined in our briefing to Robert Jenrick, we still have significant challenges which will put significant pressures on trying to balance our budgets over the next two years.
“We are proud that Shropshire is a high performer in looking after people. However, our adult social care and children’s social care continue to increase in cost per year, as vulnerable people in our communities need our support more than ever before. The continual shortfall in adult social care and children’s social care funding is resulting in other services at the council, including highways infrastructure and economic regeneration, having to be continually cut to manage the funding shortfall for the council.
“To be sustainable, and ensure the council can deliver other essential services such as highways maintenance, the council needs additional funding. Furthermore, a new Fairer Funding model needs to ensure that growth in social care costs is funded based on demand, as the current model cannot provide sustainable funding in Shropshire to match the growth in the cost of social care services.
“Our ‘ask’ is for enough additional funding to alleviate the funding gap, to allow us to continue to invest in our other essential services, whilst at the same time future-proof the financial sustainability of the council.
“Whilst we continue to meet with local MPs and Government ministers to set out a strong case for Shropshire, we believe they are listening to us, and we hope that following this meeting with the Secretary of State, we will be closer to a fair deal for our county.
“The response from The Secretary of State was very positive. He was able to grasp the issues at the heart of Shropshire’s financial problems very quickly, and indicated that the Government were working hard to deliver solutions.”
- Fair Funding was expected to redress the funding shortfall in 2021/22, enabling services bearing the brunt of cuts, such as highways, to be partly reinstated, and future growth needs to be matched by Government funding in future years.
- Between 2015/16 and 2020/21 the growth in social care costs have resulted in the council spending a higher proportion of its net budget on adult social care from 33% of its net budget to 48%. Adult social care costs have grown by between £5.3m and £14.3m each year, and in five years £50.8m has been added to the adult social care budget.
- Only a proportion of the adult social care growth has been funded by Government funding or the social care precept, and an annual shortfall of £19.5m remains, which is being funded by cuts to other services in the council.
- The main reason for growth in social care is not necessarily an increase in numbers overall, but more an increase in complexity of care packages. For instance, we have seen a 115% increase in the 18-24 age group in the last three years which generally have very complex care needs and so, coupled with an additional 25% increase in average care packages for this age group, this provides a realistic example as to why the growth in adult social care spend is so much.
- In addition to growth in adult social care, we have also seen a significant increase in the demand and complexity for looked-after children. In the last two years we have seen a 22% increase in looked-after children numbers, along with a 10% increase in the average cost of placements.