09/03/2021 - Permalink

Leader urges PM to level up Shropshire and address social care funding

Related topics: Corporate / Finance and budget

Council Leader Peter Nutting is asking Prime Minister Boris Johnson to come and visit Shropshire to see at first hand the impact the lack of funding is having on the county.

Councillor Nutting has written an open letter to the Prime Minister to highlight the need for fairer funding and for the Government’s “levelling up” drive to apply also to rural areas such as Shropshire.

The letter shows that social care costs now account for 64% of the council’s annual budget of £226 million, supporting around 10,000 people, equivalent to 3% of the county’s population of 320,000.

With an increasingly ageing population and more pressure around children’s social care, particularly because of the pandemic, social care cost pressures are increasing.

The council says it has only been able to meet the growing costs of social care by taking funding from other council services, such as highways, to help meet the shortfall. The letter says that this is now leading to historic underfunding for areas such as highways, which is hitting Shropshire, with more than 3,200 miles of road to maintain, hard.

At the same time, the letter shows that more and more of the council’s funding is being borne by council taxpayers. In 2015, 55% of the council’s £216 million net budget came from council tax. In 2020, the share of the £226 million net budget funded by council tax had risen to 72%.

Peter Nutting said:

“I’m asking the Prime Minister for what is plain and simple for all here to see– the need for fairer funding for a rural county such as Shropshire.

“We only have so much money to spend and we must keep our vulnerable adults and children safe. But let’s make no bones about this, the state of our highways is caused by underinvestment, because we have had to divert funding away into social care.

“Government funding does not reflect the needs of a rural council, and that we must ask for more and more of this funding from local council taxpayers is the final insult.

“It’s really hard as Leader of the Council to ask people to pay more council tax as a result of Government underfunding, and then use it to deliver essential services they probably won’t ever see.

“Social care costs are taking an ever-larger slice of the council’s budget – now almost two thirds – yet they touch only a very small proportion of the population.

“We are also then hit by extra costs of services such as social care in a sparsely populated rural county with a growing ageing population. This is despite Government recognition of the higher costs of services in rural areas.

“The Government’s aim to level up parts of the country that have been underfunded must also include places like Shropshire.

“I am urging the Prime Minister, come and see for yourself and ensure that Shropshire gets fair funding.”

The letter follows a motion by Councillor Gwilym Butler, Cabinet member for communities, place planning and regulatory services, passed at last month’s (February 2021) Full Council meeting, urging the council to seek more support from Government, compared with more urban areas.