Shropshire Star

Telford council leader urges Chancellor to save local services amid 'unprecedented' financial challenges

The leader of Telford & Wrekin Council has written an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, urging him to save local services in his Autumn Statement.

Telford & Wrekin Council Leader, Shaun Davies

Councillor Shaun Davies's letter calls on Jeremy Hunt to recognise the impact of inflation and the soaring costs of providing vital social care.

In the letter, Councillor Davies urges Mr Hunt to "protect and invest in the fabric of British life" and raises the challenges of funding in local government following austerity, the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.

He writes: "We, like others across local government, are in the eye of an inflationary storm and are faced with some difficult decisions about funding future services.

"Our budget is stretched across all services, but it will not have escaped you that local government is facing a monumental challenge in adult and children’s social care.

"In these services, we not only see the impact of inflation, but that of a sharp increase in the need for vital and more costly services. We feel this acutely, because Telford and Wrekin has one of the fastest growing and ageing populations in the country. One in four people in our borough also live in areas that are considered to be in the 25 per cent most deprived in the country."

Councillor Davies goes on to say that despite budgeting 68 per cent of the council's total net budget - over £100 million - for adult and children's social care, and investing a further £5.5m into the services, it is "still not enough".

"Careful planning means that our latest budget position shows we will need to use just over £4 million in reserves to balance our budget this year, but these reserves are not unlimited and using them reduces our financial resilience," he writes.

"The Local Government Association estimates that nationally, if nothing changes, councils are facing a funding gap of £4 billion over the next two years – and this assumes that councils make the difficult choice to increase council tax to the maximum before a referendum is needed.

"In Telford and Wrekin, we’ve seen the government’s revenue support grant fall from £52 million in 2013 - 40 per cent of our net revenue budget - to £11.6 million pounds, just 8 per cent."

In the letter, he urges Mr Hunt to provide local government with adequate funding which "recognises the pressure of inflation, population growth and levels of deprivation" and provide certainty with multi-year funding allocations in the place of short-term, one-year settlements.

Councillor Davies said the council's "record of strong financial control" means they are "able to tackle the unprecedented challenge", but warns other councils "will not be able to weather this storm".