Shropshire Council boss says services will not be cut despite need for £45m of savings

Shropshire residents will not lose access to council services despite the authority's need to make more than £40m of savings, its leader has pledged.

Lezley Picton, Leader of Shropshire Council.
Lezley Picton, Leader of Shropshire Council.

Shropshire Council has revealed its budget deficit requires £45m of savings for the coming year.

The authority has said it has plans to deliver a balanced budget, without cutting services.

The council's cabinet will be asked to approve the measures in a mid-year review of its financial strategy at next week's meeting.

The proposals do include setting a Council Tax rise at the highest possible level permitted by Government, 4.99 per cent.

Shropshire Council's leader Lezley Picton said that leisure centres, museums and theatres would be protected, and said the focus of the savings was on changing how the council delivers its services.

They may also include charging for the collection of green waste, although any proposal for the charges would have to be put forward in a separate plan.

Councillor Picton said that there would be no redundancies as part of the savings, and used the example of the council's spending on temporary accommodation as one area where savings will be made.

She said the authority currently spends around £5m a year paying to provide emergency accommodation for the homeless, with the majority spent on bed and breakfasts.

She said that the council would reduce its spending by using empty homes owned by social housing provider STAR Housing instead.

Assistant director for finance, Ben Jay, said the policy was already being enacted with previous numbers of up to 180 people in bed and breakfast accommodation now cut to around half of that.

He said the council was confident of reducing the amount using bed and breakfast accommodation “down to zero,” but added some temporary accommodation will always be needed.

Councillor Picton said: "The most important thing for us is we have a plan close that budget gap and once that has been closed it puts us in a really good position for future financial years."

She added: "It is trying to change the way in which we are working. It is about us focussing on our priorities, but protecting some of those services people really value like leisure centres and the arts."

Councillor Picton said the authority had been on track to deliver a balanced budget until the impact of the cost of living crisis, and inflation.

In total the council has faced increased costs of around £42m solely due to inflation – related to the rise in wages, costs of services, and utilities.

Councillor Picton said that while people may see services provided in a different way, they would not be lost.

She said: "They will see a change in how services might be delivered.

"What residents might have seen from other authorities, the closing of leisure centres, closing of libraries, in a rural county like Shropshire it is so important we retain those services in local areas.

"Residents may see a change in services being delivered but not removed."

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