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Council taxes could rise across Shropshire to fund axe-threatened services

Bridgnorth | News | Published:

Town and parish councils could increase council tax to fund axe-threatened services, the leader of Shropshire Council has claimed.

Councillor Malcolm Pate said that while his authority is restricted to a council tax rise of 1.99 per cent, councils elsewhere in the county can increase bills to help offset costs of public services.

Shropshire Council has revealed it needs to save £61 million from its budget by 2018/19 and has given town and parish councils, along with community groups and voluntary organisations, until September to find funding or alternative management for some services.

Libraries, museums, youth centres, public open spaces, and some bus routes all face potential closure unless suitable agreements are reached.

Councillor Pate said that any county increase above 1.99 per cent would require a referendum, costing hundreds of thousands.

He said: "Even then there is no guarantee people would vote for an increase.

"But parish councils precepts are low and there is no restriction on what they can charge for the precept.

"It would only cost the resident an extra two or three pounds a year and they don't have the restrictions we have at Shropshire Council.

"We don't have the money to deliver a library service but a parish or town council does."

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Chief executive of Shropshire Council Clive Wright added: "We are aware that the county is not one size fits all.

"If you take Shrewsbury, which is the most urban part, it would be very different compared to rural parish councils.

"We are saying we want to work with parish and town councils on an individual basis to see how far we can go with this opportunity and to avoid closures.

"We want to work really hard and as equal partners so that we sustain as many of the important services as possible rather than cutting things out."

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Mayor of Bridgnorth David Cooper agreed that parish councils can increase bills, but said there would be a limit to what was acceptable to residents.

He said: "Addressing that will be a challenge because in addition to looking at the services themselves we need to look at the way we can work with other councils.

"We do not have a cap on council tax, that we can change, but that is not a free right.

"We are still accountable to the electorate and there is a point we have to turn round and say if we do that we have to consult our population."

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