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Libraries and grant funds facing cuts in £80m Shropshire Council savings

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Library closures, cuts to transport services and stopping more than £500,000 of support to community groups and projects are all under consideration as part of Shropshire Council's £80 million cuts plan.

Fresh details of how savings could be made have been revealed ahead of the council's financial strategy for the next three years being agreed next month.

The council is in the process of reviewing every element of the services it provides in an attempt to balance the books.

It has been confirmed that a review of library services designed to save £1.3 million is considering the closure of some buildings.

The council is currently responsible for 22 libraries, with the future of all the sites being looked at as part of the review.

James Walton, head of finance for the council, said library services would continue throughout the county but may be delivered from different locations or in a different way in future.

He said existing libraries may welcome in other services or could be moved elsewhere, while the idea of greater use of mobile libraries will also be considered.

"It could be you take a current library space and that is not just used for the loaning out of books, there is other meeting space we can provide in there," he said.

"An alternative is to say 'well, do you need that space, do you move the provision of the books and deliver it from a different location?'

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"We are right at the start of the review. There may be closures, there may not.

"But that is about the building, not the service."

With more than £24 million to be saved from the adult social care budget in the next three years, a new service model is being created that will encourage family and friends of people in need of care to help look after them at home.

The council's budget proposals have said the new model will mean the authority will only step in "where absolutely necessary".

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The policy will be built around providing low-level support to prevent problems developing that require someone to have more costly council-provided care.

Voluntary and community sector organisations will also be asked to help provide "affordable options" to support cared-for adults.

Millions are also to be cut from transport costs, including £1.5 million from those related to children's services, over £400,000 linked to adult services and nearly £300,000 from commissioning services.

While the council will continue to fulfil statutory obligations relating to areas such as getting children to school, it will look for savings with support for rural bus routes also being reviewed.

Mr Walton said the council spends a substantial amount on areas such as transporting schoolchildren.

"We will still have to spend a lot of money," he said.

"But where you spend the most money is where you find opportunity for driving out savings," he added.

It is also intended that the council ends grant funding being provided to community groups and projects through Local Joint Committees (LJCs), helping to save the authority £529,850.

There are 28 LJCs around the county, made up of Shropshire, town and parish councillors, and who have an annual pot of money to allocate to community projects or local public services.

Grants can be given for anything from repairs to community buildings to running arts projects or putting on festivals or community events.

Intended

But it is intended the funding for the groups would now be stopped as part of the council cutbacks.

The £80 million cuts planned for the next three years are being frontloaded, with £40 million of savings due to be delivered in the 12 months from April.

Mr Walton said despite the challenges, the council believes it can balance its books while maintaining services.

"Do we believe we can provide a balanced budget? Yes," he said.

"Can we redesign all the services? We can.

"We can't do it straight away but we will do our best.

"Is the intention there will be better outcomes for the people of Shropshire? Absolutely.

"Can we please all the people all the time? No.

"There will be changes and some people will be pleased and some people will not be.

"We want this local authority to be as efficient as it possibly can be," Mr Walton said.

  • See also: Axe looming for 1,000 Shropshire Council jobs

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