Shropshire Council could face more ‘unsavoury’ decisions in order to get its huge budget deficit under control, the councillor in charge of its finances has warned.

The comments came in response to criticism from opposition leaders over the council’s money management, with cabinet member Gwilym Butler saying he would “not shy away” from the fact that tough choices had to be made.

Speaking at a meeting of the authority’s transformation and improvement scrutiny committee, Councillor Butler said it was easy for opposition members to criticise but they were not putting forward alternative suggestions for how savings could be made.

The committee was discussing a report by James Walton, director of finance, setting out how, by the end of the first quarter of 2023/24, two-thirds of its planned £51.4 million savings for the year had already been made or were on track to be made.

With the help of an external consultancy firm, the council plans to completely overhaul how services are delivered this year in order to address its enduring deficit once and for all.


However Lib Dem councillor David Vasmer said he was sceptical about the claims being made in the report.

He said: “The problem with the finances in the past has been the inability to achieve savings, and it seems to me what’s being presented here is the fact that we are making savings much earlier, and there could be a bigger problem down the track compared to previous years.

“I do worry that the overall situation on the council has not changed, we are just moving the chairs around on the Titanic if you like.

“What you’re saying is that you’re looking at things you don’t need to do, which we can cut out of our provision.

“I worry that, in actual fact, what’s happening is officers are making decisions about cutting things here, there and everywhere which result in a poorer service for people, and I do worry that at the end of the day we will be in the same situation as last year and we don’t achieve the savings.”

Councillor Butler responded that opposition groups had the chance to put forward alternative budget proposals before the council’s 2023/24 budget was approved, as part of its medium-term financial strategy (MTFS), earlier this year.

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He said: “It’s very easy to sit there in opposition and criticise us. I welcome at any time for you to bring to the table other opportunities to reduce our spend, but the fact of the matter is we have to deliver a balanced budget.

“We have put forward in the MTFS all these lines of savings and we are well on the way to delivering them.”

Councillor Butler said he was “not complacent”, and knew that things may get more tricky as the year progresses – which could lead to some “unsavoury options” being put to the council’s cabinet.

Labour group leader Julia Buckley said she shared some of Councillor Vasmer’s concerns and pointed out that her group had put forward alternative suggestions during the budget setting process, but nothing had come of them.