'Catastrophe' warning on impact of losing services in Oswestry

Losing leisure centres and libraries would be "a catastrophe" for many people in Oswestry, a councillor said as he called for action.

'Catastrophe' warning on impact of losing services in Oswestry

During a special meeting of Oswestry Town Council Councillor Duncan Kerr told members that they "must step up to the plate" and take over the running of community services from Shropshire Council.

Councillors heard a report on the beginning of discussions with the local authority and a redesign of services to match Shropshire Council's budget.

It comes after town and parish councils and community groups across the county were last month told they had five months to come up with suitable agreements to manage or fund at-risk services, as Shropshire Council is looking to save £61 million from its budget by 2018/19.

Councillor Kerr told councillors: "This could be disastrous. Losing leisure centres and libraries would be a catastrophe. I'm one of the strongest critics of Shropshire Council but I do think the town council needs to step up to the plate for the interests of the community."

He warned councillors they couldn't slow down any decision making.

"We don't have long – I think we only have four months – and I would urge us to progress and model what the budget would look like and see what it would mean," he said.

"We have the opportunity to do certain things, and we can do far better than Shropshire Council."

David Preston, clerk to the town council, asked councillors whether they would be prepared to accept a transfer of assets or, if not, to raise the precept.

He said: "This is a very serious issue and does pose a threat to the dynamics of how we operate but if we don't support these services, they could be at risk."

Councillor Chris Schofield raised the issue about double taxation.

"Some residents hardly use some of the services and would it be fair for town residents subsiding rural communities?" he said.

But Councillor Kerr warned that if services aren't taken on, double taxation won't be a concern.

He said: "The reality is communities have been under-taxed. Council tax has been frozen for a number of years, the leader himself said that was a mistake."

Councillors agreed to support the redesign of services but to note the impact on the town council. Mr Preston told them they would try and get up to speed with a breakdown of the figures, and in due course a seminar would be held to enable a response to be made to Shropshire Council.

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