Shropshire Council manages to save £650,000 - after predicting overspend of £5 million
Shropshire Council says it has managed to underspend by £650,000 in the last financial year – despite predicting it would be in the red by £5 million just six months ago.
This underspend is due to income generated from the council’s investment in the Shrewsbury shopping centres, as well as putting in place a spending freeze on all non-essential spend, among other measures.
Councillor David Minnery, Shropshire Council’s cabinet member for finance, said: “The cabinet and senior officers have worked hard to deliver this underspend from a mid-year position when we were on course for a potential overspend of around £5 million.
"This was due to some significant in year pressures, particularly in terms of keeping vulnerable children safe, taking proper care of older people and highways maintenance.
“The council was found to be ‘good’ at our safeguarding children Ofsted inspection in 2017 –- one of only 46 councils across the country to achieve this. Also, only three have achieved the top rating of ‘outstanding’, meaning that our children’s services are now in the top 30 per cent nationally.
“We are proud to have prioritised funds to ensure that vulnerable people in our communities are kept safe and are cared for. To do this we implemented a spending freeze in October 2017 and our managers kept tight control to hold back all but absolutely essential expenditure.”
The council purchased Shrewsbury’s three main shopping centres in January 2018, saying it wanted to support the economic growth and regeneration of the town centre.
Councillor Peter Nutting, Shropshire Council’s Leader, said: “I am often asked why the council invested in the Shrewsbury shopping centres.
"The main reason is so that we can shape our county town to continue to be a vibrant visitor destination both for Salopians and for all those who want to visit our wonderful county.
“The additional income already raised through this investment between January and March of this year can now be spent on maintaining essential services, without raising taxes.
"We expect this return to grow to around £3 million in the current financial year.”
A report outlining the underspend will be discussed at the council’s cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
About £465,000 of the underspend shown in the 2017/18 financial outturn relates to income from the Shrewsbury shopping centres accrued into the 2017/18 financial year.
This income was planned to fall within the 2018/19 financial year and is within estimates for income and expenditure for that year. As a result, the majority of the underspend shown in the outturn report is already committed against planned expenditure in 2018/19.
The balance of the underspend, approximately £190,000, represents a real underspend against planned expenditure that will increase the council’s general reserves in the short term.