15/02/2024 - Permalink

Delivering financial sustainability 

Related topics: Democracy / Finance and budget

Like many other councils Shropshire Council is facing huge pressure on its finances, and must make some very difficult decisions so it can set a balanced budget for 2024/25. Setting a balanced budget is a legal requirement for any council.  

As the demand for many council services – particularly social care – has increased, so has the cost of delivering them.  

This is the same for councils everywhere in the UK, but especially in places like Shropshire, because of its rural geography and older population.   

The combination of these pressures means that next financial year, 2024/25, the council must make savings of around £62m. That is almost 10% of what the council expects to spend next financial year running day-to-day services.  

Around 77% of the council’s day-to-day budget goes on adult social care and children’s social care services, which support the most vulnerable people in the county’s communities.  

The remaining budget is spent on recycling and waste, housing, highways, youth services, leisure, outdoor spaces and much more: services that people in Shropshire use every day.  

Some of these services are statutory, which means that the council has a legal duty to provide them. Its plans to overcome its budget gap will prioritise these, as it focuses on finding new ways to deliver them as efficiently as it can.  

However, many other services the council provides are discretionary, which means these are not services it must provide by law, but choose to because they benefit the people of Shropshire.   

Along with other councils up and down the country, it has no choice but to review all its services, especially discretionary ones. The council cannot continue to provide them as it does now.   

Some will change, some will need to be reduced and, unfortunately, some will need to stop altogether.   

There are more than 100 proposals for making the savings that the council must make, and these will be presented to Cabinet on Wednesday 21 February 2024 at 10.30am.   

This includes decisions that the council never wanted to make, and recognises will have a very significant impact for many people and local communities. However, the financial situation it faces means there is no choice. Among the services affected are:- 

  • Reviewing the strategy for library provision, to make savings.
  • Reducing support for leisure provision.
  • Reducing the number of household recycling centres.   
  • Charging for green waste collections. Households could opt out of this collection if they wish.   
  • Reducing the number of council-owned buildings and other assets; and accelerating the move out from Shirehall, Shrewsbury into alternative offices.   
  • Changing how the council meets the transport needs of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. A consultation on this is already underway.     

For some proposals, such as for smaller libraries and some leisure centres, the council would seek to work with local partners and communities to explore how these services can continue, or find ways to help reduce the impact for local people as far as possible. 

Lezley Picton, Leader of Shropshire Council, said:- 

“Shropshire is in the same situation as many other councils up and down the country who face very difficult decisions, as budgets cannot cover the increasing demand for services, particularly in social care, amid rising costs. 

“Our position is then made worse by Shropshire’s ageing population and its rurality: it costs more to run services in a sparsely populated large county like Shropshire. 

“The choices we face are ones that no one in the council wants to take. 

“But we are now at the point where we have no choice. This means we must continue our conversations with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and continue to lobby for funding reform that takes account of the challenges that local government faces, and the unique set of circumstances that makes Shropshire’s position even more challenging.” 

All proposals will go to Cabinet on Wednesday 21 February 2024 at 10.30am, and then to Full Council on Thursday 29 February 2024 at 10am, when Shropshire’s budget is set. 

Proposals which would see significant changes in policy would need public consultation first before any final decision is made. 

To view the Medium Term Financial Strategy on the Cabinet meeting agenda click here. 

For more details about the council’s budget challenge – go to this webpage shortly, by visiting www.shropshire.gov.uk/ourbudget2024