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Heathers Report to Worthen and Shelve Annual Parish Council

April 27, 2018 10:33 AM

Worthen with Shelve Annual Parish Council April 2018

Shropshire Council report

"017 -18 has been an eventful year. This time last we were in the midst of elections.

The next few years seem to be proving they will be the same with a number of challenges facing Shropshire Council as the Government continues to reduce its funding. That will be removed totally by 2020.

These are mainly financial and how to deliver the services that residents want and need and /or are statutory within the financial resources available to the council.

Council reorganisation seems to be on the cards again. Dorset is going to be replaced by two unitary councils due to their financial difficulties, other District Councils are merging and Also restructuring is being considered in Buckinghamshire and several other areas.. Northamptonshire Council has intervention as they could not balance their budget and there are also a number of other councils are also having significant problems.

Shropshire being a Unitary Council already is in a little better position but as already stated there are some very challenging years ahead of us.

The Financial Strategy as proposed by the Conservative Group in February show that for the next 5 years projected expenditure exceeds income. Peter Nutting the council leader states though that his aim is to bring the finances into balance within 2 years. Cuts to services have just started to be announced. These include further funding cuts to Libraries, Children's Centre closures and others seen below.

The past year, 2017/18, after the Chief Executive imposed a 5 month spending and recruitment freeze plus use of one off reserves it is estimated that there will be a budget underspend of £59k. This compares with the report at the end of August which predicted a £5M overspend. In order to achieve this position there were increases in the transfer from reserves. A number of projected savings that were predicted last February could not be achieved were not delivered. Over 17% of the savings were not made. A number of budgets were also overspent, hence the emergency actions the Chief Executive had to make.

For this year the council has imposed the maximum increase in precept it is legally able to. Shropshire Council part of the precept you pay has been increased by 5.99% has been imposed for this year. A number of cuts were shown in the budget papers for this year but with no details. The proposed budget put forward by the Conservative Cabinet also includes taking money from reserves to pay for the day to day running of the council. Some of the cuts proposed are controversial and again some I feel are not deliverable include

  • £5m off the road maintenance budget. No details on how this is to be achieved.
  • Adult Social Care prevention spend cut by £500k. Again no details supplied.
  • Reduction in children's safeguarding spend £430k. No details.
  • School Transport cost to be cut by £556k. This will mean SC only paying for the transport cost for children which they statutorily have to. This may impact on diabled childrens access to specialist education.
  • For next year, 2019/20 a cut in waste collection costs of £1.5m is proposed. This means charging for every Green Waste bins. No details of how they will achieve that in South Shropshire as we have food waste in ours!
  • Digital Transformation Project to deliver £10m savings in next 15 months.

Other issues

  • New Local Plan is being prepared. At present running 5 months behind due to lack of staff. We have discussed this already this evening so will make no further comment here.
  • Car Parking. This shows the position the council are in. Cabinet proposed various increases as reported in the press. There has been a refusal to allow council to debate them the Lib Dem group called these in for closer scrutiny as it impacts residents and could effect town centre shopping. Even though it is shown that over 80% or respondents were against them many charges are being increased. The increase in charges will provide an extra income to the council of around £900k. The cost to some residents to park outside their house is also to be doubled and increased from £50 to £100.
  • Youth budget. This is a real mess however a result has finally been decided. This affects us. Last year the youth budget was £274k. In the last few months the Cabinet and the cabinet member responsible for this area have proposed 3 different amounts varying from £134k to £174k to £234k. The budget was finally agreed by council and £234k was allocated. 7 days later the cabinet member, with no notice to anyone cut £60k from this budget, the budget for this year is now £174k. This area which includes 5 youth clubs the amount we will have been allocated is £4,000 plus the possibility of an extra £3,000 for Bishops Castle town.
  • Environmental Grant. Again a mess. Money from this grant pot has helped Ford during the last few years. During the last few months cabinet have said yes; no; yes; to it continuing. Cabinet have finally agreed it can continue but the total available has been cut from £154k to £110k. Applications from Parish Councils will shortly be asked for.
  • Street Lighting Conversion, another mess. In Ford all the Parish Council lights have been changed to LED ones, the white ones. These are much cheaper to run and maintain. Some lights in the village are paid for by Shropshire Council, they are in the main the yellow ones. Under present plans it will take 36 years to replace all the yellow sodium lights with LED ones. These yellow Sodium lights will however not be manufactured from 2019 onwards. How they will be replaced when they fail no one yet knows.
  • Minimum income guarantee cut. This effects those pensioners who are on what is called minimum income and who need home help. Shropshire Council will be increasing the charge to supply this by the equivalent of the pension increase. In effect those affected will have had no increase in income for two years. The cost of providing the services they need to enable them to live at home will have increased each year by around the same amount as their pension has increased.
  • Everyone in Shropshire will now have to pay at least 20% of their Council Tax. Even those unemployed, and or on benefits. We have evidence that a number of people may well now become homeless as a result of this.
  • Discretionary Housing Benefit. This is a yearly grant provided by Government and any unspent monies have to be returned to them at the end of each financial year. In answer to a question asked recently about the figure to be returned to Government as not used or needed for the financial year just finished. We were amazed to be told around £300k will be returned to Government.
  • Some councillors are paid a Special Responsibility Allowance for taking on extra duties. The amounts given are set by an Independent Panel. The recommendation for this year was that 15 Councillors should have their money cut and 3 have their allowance increased. The overall result would have been a reduction of £29k paid in Councillor Allowances. The Conservative majority of which the 15 are members rejected these proposals. All the members of the Independent Panel have now resigned.
  • Road maintenance. Shropshire Council have been given extra an extra £2.8 million to help pay for repairs to potholes. Kier have now replaced Ringway as contractor for this area. I and other members are at present asking for explanations why no work is at present being carried out repairing the huge number of potholes that are in our roads.
  • I could not finish this section without referring to Shopping Centres. Shropshire Council have bought the centres in Shrewsbury for around £51m. These will give return next year of around £2.4m, or 5%. Previously this money was just sat in the bank earning around just 0.8% per year. I was against this purchase and have a number of long term concerns on this type of investment. There are far better ways to invest our money which would give an equivalent or better return both short and long term. This includes building houses of a type local communities want and need. We must not leave it to developers and land agents to put in unwanted planning applications to build houses that will generate most profit for them.

Other items that may be of interest.

Even though Parish Councils, the Fire Authorities and Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin and Herefordshire Council objected to it Amber Rudd agreed to it and the Police & Crime Commissioner is now to take over control of our Fire and Rescue service.

The quarry swimming pool. A report will shortly be published which I understand will recommend the Swimming Pool will stay in the centre of Shrewsbury and not be moved to Sundorn. .