Shropshire Council

Budget consultation 2023/24

  • Period: 19 December 2022 - 30 January 2023
  • Status: Open
  • Audiences: Everyone
  • Topics: Budgets
  • Type: Public

Introduction

We're very aware that services Shropshire Council provides are highly valued by our communities, whether they're statutory (the services we must provide) or discretionary (the ones we can choose to provide). To deliver these services, we spend over £550 million annually.

As in recent years, we know that we'll have to make some difficult decisions setting the 2023/24 budget to ensure that resources continue to be prioritised, and that money is directed to where it's needed most.

Our savings proposals amount to £50m. This is a huge sum. However, we're not proposing to reduce our current service provision by that amount. Rather, we're proposing to reduce the forecast cost of services in next year by that amount. We hope that residents will not see an enormous change in the services we provide, even though how we carry out our services is going to change a lot.

In order to do this, we'll do things differently, and more cheaply, and make those changes very rapidly. Some things will be different but it won't be worse, and may even be better. This is because we really understand that everyone in Shropshire is currently dealing with a very concerning rise in the cost of living. The impacts of rising inflation swiftly following the COVID-19 pandemic is also presenting Shropshire Council with significant financial challenges.

The council must set a balanced budget each year, meaning that we can't spend more than our income. To achieve this, we're proposing a transformation and efficiency programme that will enable delivery of the Shropshire Plan and bring our budget into balance. As part of the budget process, we want your views on our budget plans to help inform councillors to agree a final budget for 2023/24.

The approach to planning our budget for 2023/24 has been guided by a number of key principles

  • Putting services first; these proposals are guided by the best way to deliver services and our Shropshire Plan priorities
  • Seeking to increase overall efficiency and effectiveness of council services significantly as our response to rising costs, rather than simply ‘cutting’ services back
  • Planning to make significant changes rapidly so that we can secure a sustainable financial base for the coming years
  • Taking difficult decisions and planning to deliver those

The background to our financial situation is set out in the update to our financial strategy. This financial strategy also includes details of our operational savings and income generation proposals. These savings proposals are also attached to this webpage. We've expanded the descriptions of the proposals to provide a clearer sense of what we propose to change and the expected impact (but the reference numbers remain the same).

We're launching this consultation ahead of the Christmas break as we know that some residents will be able to respond during their break, and others may prefer to wait until the new year. The responses received will be summarised and reported back to our councillors, alongside the budget proposals.

To have your say on this proposal, just click on the 'How to get involved' tab.

Council’s priorities and planned spend for 2023/24

Our priorities

The council’s Shropshire Plan sets out our vision and priorities for the next three years. We want to see Shropshire living the best life. It focuses on having healthy people, a healthy environment and a healthy economy, with a healthy council to make this happen.

The Four 'Healthys' of the Shropshire Plan

Within the budget proposals for next year and the medium-term financial strategy over the next five years, we're starting to link the Shropshire Plan priorities to specific service objectives. This will look at how we can do things more efficiently and with better outcomes, getting ‘from A to B’ in the shortest, quickest way we can.

There are some simple, overarching principles (not a detailed plan) as to how we'll do this. These principles reflect the Shropshire Plan objectives, and help guide how we can look again at how we provide services such as social care for older adults, highways maintenance, support for young people, waste collection, support to schools, and planning. Many of these proposals focus on improving outcomes for people, thus helping to increase efficiency overall. These proposals feature in the budget because they help to reduce our future costs.  

The key is to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of all of our activities – seeking to reduce costs where possible, use new technology to help make tasks simpler (for example by analysing data in a new way, or automating routine tasks where possible), and looking all the time at the outcomes we're trying to achieve, and whether they're being achieved in practice, to improve our effectiveness.

As such, these budget proposals aim to build on what we all learnt during the pandemic, especially how agile we can be, to be more confident in how we approach future challenges, and to ensure that our estimated future costs are contained within what we can afford. Some of the proposals already being developed include:

  • Reducing our use of bed and breakfast for people in need of temporary accommodation.
    • This was a necessity during the pandemic to help keep people safe, but is not a good outcome for the individuals affected. For example, it's not very easy for a family to live in B&B accommodation for several weeks or more. It’s also costly to the council.
    • So, we're trying to reduce use of B&B by finding better alternatives that are more comfortable for those people who need temporary accommodation. This is also less costly for the council. If we can reduce B&B use to almost nil, this will save us around £2m.
  • A project called ‘Stepping Stones’ was already in place, but because of its success we want to expand it further.
    • It involves looking at the care needs of vulnerable children and how we can best meet these. Often, when children are first in contact with social services, they have higher needs (which cost more for us to meet). Over time, often those needs reduce.
    • The Stepping Stones project is a way in which we can ensure that each child has the support that gives them the best chance to flourish – this reduces their needs, improves their outcomes, and reduces overall costs.

More opportunities to develop these sorts of improvements have been identified, and some of our proposals involve working these up into more detailed proposals, to help improve outcomes and reduce costs.

Funding to support the council

Since the government has reduced the level of funding available to local authorities through the general government grants, we've become increasingly reliant on the level of council tax and income from fees and charges that we can generate to deliver our statutory services.

As new houses are developed in Shropshire, and residents pay council tax, this increases the income due to the council. However, with an increased population this also increases the demand and the overall cost of services.

Currently the bulk of our expenditure relates to adult and children’s social care, as shown in the chart below. This crucial and statutory service incurs 75% of the total net budget of the council, with 15% spent on waste and recycling services, and 5% on highways maintenance. This then leaves only 5% of the net budget to deliver all the other services that the council provides.

Pie chart showing which services Shropshire Council spends its budge on

In 2022/23 the council, like all residents in Shropshire grappling with the cost of living crisis, is experiencing inflationary pressures and so needs to find ways of either generating additional income to offset these cost increases, or reducing expenditure. During the current financial year we're projecting an £11m overspend, resulting mainly from increased cost pressures in adults and children’s social care where the cost of care has grown significantly. Mitigating action across all services will continue over the last few months of the year to try and achieve an overall balanced position without the need to use reserves.

We're still awaiting details of government funding for 2023/24 which are expected to be announced in December 2022. However, best estimates of funding likely to be received have already been anticipated in the budget proposals.

Documents

We want your help in confirming that our budget plans are appropriate in terms of the council tax rises proposed and the savings suggested.

Having read all the information provided, please use our online feedback form to comment on the proposals... »

This survey will take you through the key information that the council has used in formulating its budget plans for 2023/24. Within this document you will see questions where we require your opinion on our proposals.

If you need help in navigating the document please call in at one of our Shropshire Local sites, or call us on 0345 678 9077 and we'll be happy to assist you. 

You can also respond to this engagement survey in writing:

  • Email: TellUs@shropshire.gov.uk
  • Post: Feedback and Insight Team, Shropshire Council, Shirehall, Abbey Foregate, Shropshire SY2 6ND

If you'd like the survey in an alternative format, please email TellUs@shropshire.gov.uk and describe the support you need to allow you to respond.

Please note that only one response per device will be possible, so if more than one person in your household wishes to respond, please use different devices to do so, or if you have only one device available please submit any additional responses using one of the methods above.

Your views will form part of a report which will be considered by full council when they discuss and agree on the final budget.

Data protection

Information collected in our surveys will only be used by us (Shropshire Council) to inform the immediate and future provision of our services. The information you provide will be kept confidential in accordance with our Privacy Policy. It will not be shared outside of Shropshire Council. Information collected via our online surveys (hosted on the Surveymonkey website) will be stored on SurveyMonkey’s servers in the United States of America and SurveyMonkey gives an undertaking never to disclose the survey questions or your responses to others without permission.