SHROPSHIRE Council has edged closer to delivering a balanced budget – but criticism has been lodged as to how the authority has achieved it.

The council reported that it had an overspend of £72,000 after quarter three at yesterday’s (Wednesday) cabinet meeting at Shirehall.

This is despite the overspend standing at more than £8 million after quarter two, when a series of spending and recruitment freezes were brought in.

And while the news was welcomed by council leader Peter Nutting, who said the authority had done “extremely well” to almost balance the books, some were less impressed.

Councillor Roger Evans, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council, said: “There are some underlying stories here that need to be taken on board when we look at next year.

“It is one-off savings that have got us here.

“There was a freeze on spending and recruitment that has seen £6.9 million saved.”

But Councillor Nutting said: “I think we have done extremely well to get there in difficult circumstances.

“It is an excellent situation to be in in view of the circumstances we find ourselves in.”

James Walton, the council’s director of finance, said that with the overspend standing at £72,000, it would be likely the council would return a balanced budget by the end of the year.

Councillor Evans said he was worried about some of the council’s financial decisions – including putting a government rural service grant into reserves – would not reflect favourably.

“We are putting this money into reserves this year while making drastic cuts,” he said.

“Is this what a caring, open authority should be doing? It’s not for me.”

But Councillor Nutting said: “We do face challenges, as do all the shire counties and I would like to see how some of the metropolitan boroughs who do very well would do if the money was shared amongst the shires more.”

Mr Walton had previously announced that council tax is proposed to rise 3.99 per cent in the county next year, a proposal which will go before the full council on February 28.

The increase will consist of a general 2.99 per cent rise and an additional one per cent on top to be set aside purely for adult social care, which is costing the council £8 million more each year.

This will mean a provisional increase of £53.27 for an average Band D property, the council said.

The fire, parish council and police precepts will then be added on following that.