16/01/2024 - Permalink

Alternative Budget Proposal to be put to Cabinet tomorrow following scrutiny review

Related topics: Corporate / Finance and budget

A new proposal from one of Shropshire Council’s opposition parties will be put to the council’s Cabinet for consideration at its meeting tomorrow morning (Wednesday 17 January 2024), before the Council sets its budget for 2024/25 on Thursday 29 February 2024.

This follows a review by Transformation and Improvement Overview and Scrutiny Committee of a range of proposals put forward by the three main opposition groups of Labour, Liberal Democrats, and Greens.

At the scrutiny committee meeting on Wednesday 10 January these proposals were considered re how they could help to close the council’s budget gap, with officers advising on the likely impact and feasibility of these.

Opposition groups had been asked for proposals to save £23.6million, reflecting the council’s budget position in October 2023.

The council says that, despite expecting to make £43million of spending reductions in the current year, it now faces at least £50million of spending reductions in 2024/25.

This is due to continuing rising demand for social care, which now accounts for almost 80% of the council’s day-to-day budget and rising costs.

Common themes raised by opposition groups were arrangements to ensure value for money through all contracts let by or managed by the council.

The proposal from the alternative budget process that will go to Cabinet tomorrow, put forward by the Greens, is to reduce the carbon footprint of the council by having this as a priority consideration in all procurement and contracting activities.

The rationale is that the council’s supply chain is the major contributor to its carbon emissions and, by removing high-carbon purchases and reducing supply chain carbon emissions, has been shown elsewhere to reduce overall spending by up to 10%, over a period of time.

Therefore, this could secure up to £37m of potential savings, and could meet the £23.6m savings target that the Alternative Budget process was set.

Claire Wild, chair of Transformation and Improvement Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said:-

“I am grateful to the opposition groups for bringing forward their ideas to help the council reduce spending.

“This new approach is a way to give opposition groups the opportunity to help shape the council’s budget proposals.

“Many ideas were put forward; and that only one of these will go on to Cabinet, underlines the scale, difficulty and challenge that we face, and that there are no simple solutions.”

Julian Dean, Greens group leader, said:-

“I urge Cabinet to accept the proposal we have put forward around reducing the carbon footprint of the council’s supply chain, whilst also looking for opportunities to improve the value of the council spending to the local economy.

“I believe a focus on these two issues can help make a significant contribution towards the council’s very challenging budget situation, be a key step forward towards the council’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2030, and help support local jobs and businesses.”

It is the second time that Shropshire Council has used this Alternative Budget Proposals process, and this will be discussed by Cabinet at their meeting tomorrow morning (Wednesday 17 January 2024).