Shropshire Star

Consultation on Church Stretton tax rise to keep services running

The people of Church Stretton will be asked whether taxes should be raised to keep services such as a library and swimming pool.

Church Stretton

Church Stretton Town Council has agreed to set up a "working group" to look at the services in the area put at risk by Shropshire Council cuts.

It will launch consultation with people living in the town over whether to raise the council tax precept to help fund such services in the future.

The move has come in response to Shropshire Council's proposed budget for 2017, which suggests stopping all funding of services such as libraries and leisure centres.

Councillor Mike Walker, who was voted in for a second term as mayor of Church Stretton on Tuesday, said: "Because of the wide range of services currently provided by the town council, councillors are very aware that Church Stretton already has the highest council tax in the county.

"For that reason, we place great store in consulting with our local community and surrounding parishes on which services they are willing to fund in the future."

Marian Giles, town clerk, said: "To illustrate the scale of the task, the library has known users from 29 surrounding parishes with who we will need to consult, while the short in funding for the leisure centre alone next year could be as much as £90,000."

She said a small group of councillors had been appointed to lead discussions with Shropshire Council, to investigate "realistic alternative means" of funding or providing services, and devise the most effective means of community consultation.

"The council only has until July to formally consult with the local community and surrounding parishes in order to establish the degree of willingness locally to fund these services if no alternative options have for these 'at risk' services have been identified," she said.

She said the council will then work on its recommendations to present to Shropshire Council in September, though members expressed "grave concern" about the scale and speed of funding cuts, and said the summer months were the "least opportune time" to be consulting people and carrying out the work.

Mrs Giles added the councillors who would hold discussions with Shropshire Council had been selected during the annual town meeting held on Tuesday.

A dispute over whether Shropshire Council could move the library from its town centre building to be run at Church Stretton School is still ongoing. Objectors raised a judicial review over the matter but both sides agreed to continue talks outside of court before the case was heard.

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