Shropshire Star

'This is about financial survival': Shropshire Council's stark warning as it looks to save £62m

"This is about financial survival" – that is the stark message as a council looks to save millions from its budget this year.

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Shropshire Council has delivered an update on its bid to save £62.5 from its budget this financial year, revealing the extent of its balance-sheet tightrope act.

The plans include a host of costs savings required across services provided by the authority – as well as looking to reduce its workforce by an equivalent of 540 full-time posts, to save £27m.

The council has stressed that does not mean 540 compulsory redundancies, with a number of measures to be taken before they are considered.

Those include voluntary redundancy, the restructure of senior management with some high-earning directors leaving the authority, removing "non-essential vacancies", and reducing agency spending.

Council leader, Lezley Picton, said: "The overriding thing for me is we will do everything we can do to reduce the number of compulsory redundancies."

Discussing the issues facing the council she said: "It is tough and the worst thing is we are talking about people's jobs."

The savings come as the council looks to move to a new operating model as " a smaller organisation, with fewer people, to ensure financial survival in exceptionally challenging circumstances".

Councillor Picton added: "I cannot stress enough, this is about survivability and sustainability."

James Walton, head of finance at Shropshire Council said that good progress had been made on the savings targets – but warned that the authority would need to be consistent in making sure it delivers its plans.

Shropshire Council leader Lezley Picton.

He said: "On the back of savings last year this is a big ask and we need to monitor this tightly over the next year."

He added: "Right now, as of today, this is about financial survival. This is about decisions that will balance our books this year."

Mr Walton said that the council also faces the difficulty of unplanned and unexpected costs which could impact its funding, leaving it needing to find more savings.

So far £35m of the £62.5m required savings are projected to be delivered by the end of the year, 56 per cent of overall target.

Mr Walton said that the progress was "a really good place to be given the size and scale of the savings we need to make".

But he added that early projections show the authority could even have to find another £38m – a total he said could be covered by the council's general fund balance, "but only just".

He said: "The general fund balance is in excess of the overspend but only just."

He added: "It does not give us a lot of leeway in terms of other things that could happen this year."