Shrewsbury MP wants government minister to look at possible merger between councils
An MP has called for an investigation into the costs of running a town council, to see if its services could be provided by Shropshire Council instead.
Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury & Atcham, has written to the Secretary of State for Local Government, Robert Jenrick, asking him to assess the financial benefits of merging Shrewsbury Town Council, with the Shropshire authority.
The call comes as both councils have appealed to the government for financial help, saying the costs of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic have left significant holes in their balance sheets.
The leader of Shrewsbury Town Council, Councillor Alan Mosley, has criticised the call, saying the authority provides "essential services" through one of the lowest precepts in the country.
Mr Kawczynski said: "I have submitted a number of questions to the Secretary of State for Local Government to ask him for an evaluation of the costs of running Shrewsbury Town Council for the previous three or four years and an assessment of what would happen to the running costs if these services were merged with Shropshire Council.
"What is the optimum way in which council services can be provided for Salopian constituents?"
Mr Kawczynski has previously advocated a merger between Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Councils – something rejected by members of both authorities.
He said: "I still believe that is the optimum solution but there is no consensus on that matter from Telford or Shropshire councils but if there can be a reassessment of how town councils and unitary authorities work , and their value for money from a local rate payers point of view – particularly when there is such unprecedented pressure on delivering council services I think it is at the very least worth scrutinising."
He added: "At this stage I just want to understand what are the services of Shrewsbury Town Council, what are the services it provides, the whole gamut of services, what are the running costs, the property value of the buildings Shrewsbury town council uses to provide those services."
Mr Kawczynski said that while the Covid crisis has led to councils issuing warnings about bankruptcy without help from the government, he believed the answer can not be to ask for more from taxpayers.
He said: "The easy answer is just to demand more money from people, that is the easy thing, you have a problem, get people to pay for it.
"A more innovative solution is assessing how services are provided and if they can be provided to the same of a better standard while adapting and modernising how they are delivered.
"The key question is, is it appropriate for Shrewsbury to have two councils operating and we cannot assess that until we get under the bonnet of the situation."
Councillor Mosley responded by saying Shrewsbury Town Council plays a key role in the town and is responsible for number of important services, such as looking after the town's parks, including the Quarry, taking care of 60 play areas, allotment sites, community centres, toilets, footway lighting, Christmas lights and bus shelters.
He added that it also provides youth services and has been behind the town's success in the bloom competitions.
He said: "Shrewsbury Town Council is part of Britain’s grass roots government which ensures that key local services are provided by local people serving the interests the local residents. In Shrewsbury the town council does a great job in providing essential facilities and services that do so much to enhance well-being and improve the quality of life for local people.
"I doubt Daniel Kawczynski knows that we are also one of the most effective and efficient councils in the country.
"We serve one of the largest populations but levy one of the very lowest precepts. Shrewsbury Town Council charge £60.25 a year on a Band D ratepayer compared to the county average of £78.73 hence, providing excellent value for money.
"Is he also suggesting that all other town and parish councils are subsumed under Shropshire Council’s banner?
“Shrewsbury Town Council is deeply saddened that its own constituency MP does not recognise the value of the town council both within his constituency but to the wider county. Indeed, we work closely with Shropshire Council on many different projects, act as their contractor for the provision of local services and provide grassroots local knowledge and support.
"We also take account of the needs and views of the residents of the wider Shrewsbury & Atcham Constituency who use the town as their principal service centre."
The council is currently bases at Shrewsbury Library, which is owned by Shropshire Council.