29/02/2024 - Permalink

Council sets a balanced budget, prioritising services for most vulnerable

Related topics: Corporate / Finance and budget

Shropshire Council has today voted to set a balanced budget for 2024/25, laying out plans to close a funding gap of £62m arising from increased demand and rising costs for its services, especially in social care and housing.

Full Council today (Thursday 29 February 2024) – still in session on other matters – voted on plans which include increasing income, reducing the amount the council spends with third parties, managing demand for its services, and reducing the size of the council overall. As the council has already stated, it expects to reduce its size by around 300 full time equivalent posts.

Setting a balanced budget is a legal requirement for any council and Shropshire’s plans are to prioritise services that support the most vulnerable people in the county.

The budget also includes a 4.99% increase in council tax, which the Government assumes councils will make, and includes a 2% adult social care precept. For the average band D property in Shropshire, this will mean an extra £1.57 a week for Shropshire Council’s part of council tax bills.

95% of all councils with a responsibility for social care are, like Shropshire, raising their bills by this amount.

Funding pressures are affecting councils all over the country, and these are made even more challenging by Shropshire’s rural geography and older population. The council’s savings for 2024/25 are equivalent to 10% of its overall budget, to deliver day-to-day services.

Services across the council will be reviewed: some will change, some will reduce and some will stop altogether. Significant changes will go through consultation, and the public will be able to share their views and alternative suggestions.

Included in the savings plans are:-

  • Reviewing the strategy for library provision to make savings
  • Reducing support for leisure provision
  • Reducing the number of Household Recycling Centres
  • An optional, charged, household green waste collection service
  • Reducing the number of council buildings and other assets, and accelerating the move from Shirehall, Shrewsbury into alternative offices
  • Changing how we meet the transport needs of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities: a consultation is ongoing.

Following agreement of the budget plans, the council will now progress the next steps to ensure that the plans can be put into action as quickly as possible.

For a number of proposals, such as for libraries and leisure centres, the council will now start discussions with local partners and communities to see how they could continue outside of council control, to explore ways to help reduce the impact for local people as far as possible.

It will also start planning public consultations on significant services changes as a result of the budget.

Lezley Picton, Leader of Shropshire Council, said:-

“In 2023/24 we have made the highest amount of savings we have ever made, over £40m in one financial year. We achieved this by investing in prevention to manage demand for our services, and using new, innovative ways to meet demand using the resources we have.

“We would be in a much more difficult position without the changes we have made this year and, even though our challenge next year is significant, just like councils all over the country, our plans have been carefully considered and, regrettably, are absolutely necessary.

“This includes difficult decisions that we have never wanted to make, and there will be a considerable impact for our communities and our staff.  With this in mind, our plans prioritise services that support the most vulnerable people in Shropshire, and we must focus on finding new ways to deliver these as efficiently as possible.

“I encourage people to get involved in the consultations that will soon follow for any significant service changes; and we will listen to everybody’s views, as well as exploring alternative options with our partners wherever possible, to reduce the impact of the scale of the savings we must find.”

Sign up to Shropshire Council’s consultation and survey alerts mailing list here Shropshire Council (govdelivery.com)