By Mike Sheridan

The leader of Shropshire Council’s Labour group has been accused of starting a “class war” over plans to bring the authority’s social care services in house.

Conservative Councillor Dean Carroll said Bridgnorth West and Tasley Councillor Julia Buckley was following a “Marxist agenda” in a wild exchange over an alternative budget proposal from the Labour group which proposed to limit the authority’s reliance on private sector care provision.

Opposition groups had been encouraged to submit their alternative budget proposals ahead of the council’s formal budget in March, which the council said was an “opportunity for Councillors and Members to work together, sharing information, ideas, and insights.”

But while Green proposals to save £37m with a low-cost, carbon neutral supply chain were met with cordial approval, Conservative councillors responded with fury to proposals to in-source care services, amid Labour claims that the council had “lost control” of the detail of its external contracts.

“Our proposals are all about a single theme – insourcing. Bringing to an end this contracting out culture,” said Councillor Buckley.

“Our concern is that this council has lost control. We’ve lost control of the budget because we’ve lost control of those contracts.

“We would love to bring the care workers in house, have a beautiful team of Shropshire care workers. We wouldn’t pay them the minimum wage, we would pay them £14 an hour.”

Labour claimed the proposal would save around £11m per year, but was met with an angry response from Conservative councillors, who at one stage accused Councillor Buckley of “attempting to take over” the social care market.

“You are dealing in utter fantasy. You seem to think there are hundreds of people out there who want to come and work for Shropshire Council,” said council leader, Councillor Lezley Picton.

“You are basically going to do away with all of [ the care agencies ], you’re going to do away with companies, businesses which people have built up and who work extremely hard.

“Your idea of nationalising social care is frankly laughable, and please don’t think it would save us money because it wouldn’t.”

Councillor Dean Carroll also accused Labour of attempting to “nationalise” the social care market in Shropshire, in a direct exchange with the Labour leader that appeared on the verge of descending into an open row.

“Are you going to be compensating these companies whose business you are going to be decimating?” he said.

“You’re attempting to create division, conflict, a class war between people in Shropshire and these imaginary fat-cats.

“You know you’ve been caught out trying to push a Marxist agenda down the throats of local people without actually calling it what it is.”

Councillor Buckley responded: “I’m not a Marxist, I’m the leader of the Labour group.”

Conservative councillors dismissed Liberal Democrat proposals to provide extra services for residents which they said amounted to acceptance of the budget proposals offered by the administration, but agreed to adopt proposals from the Green group to reduce costs in the council’s procurement processes.

“We take seriously the opportunity for the council to support a resilient, sustainable local economy,” said Green leader Councillor Julian Dean.

“Greening the council and greening the local economy is not somehow a cost on economic development or tax-payers as it’s often portrayed by the right, it’s actually an opportunity for improving and creating a meaningful and sustainable economy for everybody.”