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Calls for council tax referendum to raise funds for Shropshire's threatened services

Oswestry | News | Published:

Town councils still want a referendum on raising council tax to save threatened services such as libraries and leisure centres, councillors have said.

Ludlow Town Council has decided the subject will be discussed as a matter of urgency with its neighbouring parish councils, despite no indication from Shropshire Council yet that the county authority will back the idea.

At a meeting of Ludlow Town Council on Monday evening councillors said they must push forward with discussing a referendum as they could not wait until after September, Shropshire Council's deadline for alternative suggestions on how libraries, museums and leisure centres might be funded in the future as it looks to slash its budgets for such services to zero from April 2017.

Councillor Graeme Perks said that with local authority elections due to take place in 2017 it would be unlikely a referendum could be arranged at that time.

"What is our time frame? The referendum is high priority, we cannot wait until September," he said.

Ludlow Town Council met with representatives from Albrighton, Bridgnorth, Broseley, Church Stretton, Cleobury Mortimer, Craven Arms, Much Wenlock, Oswestry and Wem on June 8, drawing up a "Memorandum of Cooperation" between the town and parish councils that called Shropshire Council's time frame for service cuts "wholly unrealistic" and called for a referendum.

Shropshire Council then called a meeting of all town and parish councils on June 14 to hear "perspectives" from Broseley, Ludlow and Shrewsbury, but did not concede a referendum was on the cards.

Councillor Tim Gill said it was clear at that meeting that Shropshire Council were not happy that the 10 councils had met previously.

Councillor Glen Ginger added: "I don't think there was a mayor or (town or parish council) chair at that meeting who dissented from the idea of a referendum."

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Mayor of Ludlow Paul Draper said: "The only thing that we need is time and the only way we will get time is if Shropshire Council agree to hold a referendum to raise the precept level."

Members agreed to formally adopt the memorandum and go on to meet with all parish councils that formed the Ludlow and Clee local joint committee and push for support for a referendum.

Earlier in the meeting Andy Boddington, Shropshire councillor for Ludlow North paid tribute to the town council for "stepping up" to lead the way in standing up to Shropshire Council over service cuts.

Shropshire Council is not for turning. They're absolutely determined that if these services can't be spun off they will dump them," he said.

But, he said, Ludlow Town Council had risen to challenge the county authority and lead the way for others.

"I am proud of Ludlow Town Council and I congratulate you on that," he said.

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