Update 10 February 2015
We now have a response, not from Keith Barrow but a finance officer who says the council is entitled to hold the money back (the letter). And anyway, he says, a formal decision has not yet been made to hold back the money. Maybe it hasn’t but a lot of Conservatives will have to join the opposition if the proposal is to be voted down at February’s full council meeting. I know a lot of Conservative members are under pressure from their local councils who face raising precepts to make up for the loss of money they were promised by central government. So maybe, just maybe, this damaging proposal will be voted down. But I am not holding my breath.
This evening, Ludlow Town Council raised its precept by 8% to make up for Shropshire Council retaining the Council Tax Support Grant which it was meant to pass on to the council.
The four unitary councillors for Ludlow and Clee have tonight written to council leader Keith Barrow saying his decision to retain funds meant for town and parish councils has more than financial implications. His actions are leading to a breakdown of trust between Shropshire Council and town and parish councils.
We are asking him to reinstate funds to town and parish councils that are rightly theirs. We urge him to work to rebuild the trust between the community tier of government and Shropshire Council.
Town and parish councils: a breach of trust over Council Tax Support Grant
Tonight we witnessed an event we believe should not have happened. Ludlow Town Council agreed to raise its precept by 8% purely to compensate for the retention of the CTSG by Shropshire Council.
The town council has been placed in an unacceptable situation. As Brandon Lewis and Kris Hopkins have said, CTSG funding has only been given to Shropshire Council to be passed on to town and parish councils.
The impact on Ludlow Town Council’s budget is significant. But the blow to Shropshire Council’s reputation is immeasurable.
There has always been a degree of trust between the different levels of local government. This trust has been based on mutual respect and an understanding of the respective roles of each tier. It has been maintained even when there has been disagreement over policy.
That trust is being destroyed by the proposed decision to strip town and parish councils of the CTSG that is rightly theirs. Cash strapped local councils are being raided of a significant income that will contribute less than 0.1% to Shropshire Council’s annual budget.
Our town needs the community support that Ludlow Town Council provides. The town council helps our economy thrive, it supports the vulnerable and helps keep our community fit and active. By doing so, it lowers public costs elsewhere including for Shropshire Council and the health services.
The withdrawal of CTSG funding is short-sighted and wrong in principle. We fear the breakdown in trust that this action will cause between Shropshire Council and town and parish councils will be irreparable. We cannot thrive as a county when different tiers of local government are at loggerheads, especially at a time of stringent expenditure cuts.
The final decision on withdrawing the CTSG has yet to be made. We ask you to reinstate funds to our town and parish councils that our rightly theirs. We urge you work to rebuild the trust between the community tier of government and Shropshire Council.
Andy Boddington, Richard Huffer, Tracey Huffer and Vivienne Parry
Unitary councillors for Ludlow and Clee