Shropshire Labour Group has set out its Alternative Budget for Shropshire Council which aims to invest in people, rather than property.
Funding will focus on recruiting and supporting staff to help the most vulnerable; a Council Tax freeze for the hardest-hit households; and long-term investments in renewable energy; energy efficiency and “20 is plenty” speed restrictions to improve road safety in residential areas.
Following the publication of the Conservative administration’s proposals to cut £50m from Shropshire Council’s budget for 2023-24 by slashing all “non-mandatory” services, the Labour Group has deplored this attack on the county’s most vulnerable residents.
Cllr Julia Buckley, Leader of Shropshire Labour Group said, “We are appalled that Conservative Councillors have made this heartless attack on our most vulnerable residents during the cost-of-living crisis, in order to bail out their spending mistakes on failed shopping centres and over-priced unwanted road building schemes.
“Cruel Conservative cuts plan to remove school transport for Special Needs children and for those children medically excluded from school; reduce care at home for the elderly; cut back supported living assistance for disabled adults; and not replace vacant posts at the Council, adding more pressure on the already-beleaguered workforce.”
“Once again, Conservatives in power are expecting the poorest in society to foot the bill for their mistakes in office.”
Shropshire Labour Group has a different vision of how Shropshire Council could be run.
Their leader, Cllr Julia Buckley explained: “Instead of wasting tens of millions of pounds investing in vanity capital projects that are speculative, commercial and unpopular with residents (Such as the purchase of the Pride Hill shopping centre, which has already lost over £30m in value; and the North West Relief Road which attracted over 4,000 objections); we would focus on what Councils should really be doing … investing in people.
“We believe that Council staff should be valued; paid appropriately with decent terms and conditions and recruit adequate numbers to support our most vulnerable residents. The Council currently wastes over a million pounds a year on paying agency social workers … whereas Labour would increase the salary and conditions of our social workers to support them in the role and ensure continuity for clients. We would also employ an additional two Educational Psychologists to support school children struggling to access Special Needs support. Both of these budget proposals would save the Council longer term costs by increasing upfront support to resolve issues earlier and cheaper – and so much better for struggling families.”
Setting out Labour’s alternative budget this week, Cllr Buckley said: “We would offer a Council Tax freeze to all those residents currently in receipt of benefits and living in properties whose Council Tax is banded A or B. So many families are struggling at the moment with the cost of living crisis, they cannot afford the additional 4.99% Council Tax rise proposed by the out-of-touch Conservatives.”
“We would also invest in longer-term projects that combat climate change such as investing £2m to ensure 20 mph zones in all residential, school and town centre areas across the county. This protects residents, promotes healthy lifestyles and will save the Council road repairs budget. The “20 is plenty” approach has been very successful in other counties … it is time for Shropshire to catch up!”
Other investments include installing solar panels on high-use Council buildings to reduce energy bills and setting up a new team to support retro-fitting buildings to help them become more energy efficient. All of which would generate income for the Council whilst supporting long-term aims to combat climate change.
At the heart of the Labour alternative budget, as with all the main opposition groups on Shropshire Council, is a commitment to cancel the North West Relief Road and to re-direct resources into the environmental and social schemes outlined, which would benefit families across the county and in particular, support those who are struggling financially under this Conservative-created cost of living crisis.
Cllr Buckley commented: “Shropshire Council has been led by the Conservatives since its creation in 2009, but with their dwindling majority and repeated errors of judgement on the shopping centre purchase and North West Relief Road; residents can now see for themselves how a different party would run the Council. Labour would stop frittering tax-payers money on failed commercial projects and instead reinvest in our public services, public sector workers and to support our hardest-hit families. We look forward to the day when Shropshire Council is led by politicians with different values.”