Shropshire Council staff told to work

To tackle a growing overspend and balance its budget, Shropshire Council has told its staff they must work from home one day a month.

Predicting an £6.8 million overspend on its gross budget of £561.95 million for this financial year, the council says staff will work from home on the last Friday of every month, and from January council buildings will shut at noon every Friday.

Council chief executive Clive Wright has been asked by the council's cabinet to implement a spending freeze with immediate effect, and this will now include heating and lighting costs at the council's Shirehall headquarters.

Shropshire Council leader Peter Nutting said: “This week’s decision to introduce a spending freeze across the council follows the need to get this year’s budget under control, as we always do, despite the pressures.

“An ever-increasing number of vulnerable people need support which has meant that our adults and children’s social care services are under more pressure than ever. Despite allocating a further £10 million to Social Care for 2018/19, increasing demand in this area now suggests another £5 million is required this year; funding that we just don’t have. This isn’t just a Shropshire issue, it’s happening all over the country. But, here in Shropshire, the costs per person for care remain low, whilst quality is high, and we want this to continue.

“We had hoped that the Budget would help with recognised pressures in social care. We expect to get some additional funding but it isn’t going to be anywhere near the additional £15 million cost for this year alone. We don’t know how much we will get, as that hasn’t been announced yet, but we know it is a ‘one off’ rather than in the our base budget for next year and the years after.

“Spending freezes delay expenditure on things like buying new equipment, where this can happen. We will of course try to minimise the impact on frontline services. We will also be encouraging staff to work more flexibly as part of our transition to mobile and agile working. We are not closed for business, we will simply be working in a different way.”

Roger Evans, leader of the Liberal Democrats at the council, said he was shocked at a lack of consultation on the decision while Labour’s Alan Mosley said it was ‘despicable’ that the Conservative-led council had resorted to dire measures which were the ‘product of poor administration’.

He said: “This represents a further indication of the crisis in services at Shropshire Council. There appears to be a panic, with a freeze on expenditure and a 'lock out' at various times for all workers. The morale of many hard working staff is already at rock bottom and this is a further threat to the services they provide for residents and their own security.

"Confidence in the council will plummet and residents will be concerned about their services, especially for the most vulnerable. With massive overspends predicted and minimal reserves the council is obviously in a perilous state with the austerity policy handed down by their government and a poor administration entirely to blame.” 

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