Shropshire

Shropshire Council announces £24m budget cuts

Shropshire Council has agreed the final stage of budget cuts as part of plans to save £86m by 2014.

A cabinet meeting on Wednesday approved £24m of savings, including selling council buildings and cutting spending on special educational needs.

Conservative council leader Keith Barrow said the cuts would have a "minimal impact" on frontline services.

The Labour and Liberal Democrat groups said the first phase of cuts were only just starting to be felt.

Labour's leader on the council Alan Moseley said it was too early to say what effect specific cuts would have, but warned they could have "dire" consequences.

The latest budget is due to go before a full council meeting later in the month.

Low-income families

Mr Barrow challenged the other parties to come up with their own plans.

Schools in the county will see their main budgets frozen, and could face cuts of £350,000 a year to other services, such as extra curricular music lessons.

Plans were also approved to cut subsidies for children from low-income families to attend the Arthog Outdoor Education Centre in north Wales.

The Conservative-led council said schools could use the government's new pupil premium payment to support those from the poorest backgrounds.

About £200,000 is expected to be saved from the special educational needs budget, including cuts to the psychology team and specialists supporting children with hearing and sight problems.

The authority also announced plans to outsource the running of leisure centres and nursing homes to private companies, which it said would save about £650,000 a year.

Tourism fears

It also announced plans to turn off about 70% of street lights between midnight and 05:30.

There were also cuts to the arts and culture budget, including marketing for council-run tourist attractions such as Acton Scott Working Farm and the Shropshire Hills Secret Discovery Centre.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group Nigel Hartin warned that any drop in tourist spending could lead to further cuts.

Mr Barrow said each round of savings had become increasingly difficult to make.

"I think we've been as successful as anyone can be," he said.

The Audit Commission recently praised the council's approach to budget savings, but warned it would need to continue to monitor their effect in key areas.

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