Next Thursday, Shropshire Council will vote to raise council tax by 3.99%, the maximum allowed without holding a referendum. This will take the payment for a Band D property to £1,388.23. There will be a rise of nearly 10% in the police precept and 4% in the fire precept. Most parish and town council precepts will rise, though not in Ludlow where the precept has risen by 48% since April 2017. Overall, Ludlow residents will see their combined council tax and precept bill rise by 4.2%.
We don’t yet know how much council tax will rise next year. That will be decided in February but we have some early clues. Shropshire Council’s financial plan assumes a rise of 3.99%, though it may be tempted to take advantage of a government offer made just before Christmas to add an extra 1% to the bill.
The Police and Crime Commissioner is proposing an increase of 4%, though the government has since said he would be allowed to raise half as much again. The Fire Service and Ludlow Town Council have yet to declare their plans.
Update 30 January 2017
Ludlow Town Council tonight agreed to raise its precept by 24%. From 1 April, its share of council tax for a Band D property will rise from £107.60 to £133.30.
Main article 26 January 2017
At the Shropshire Council meeting yesterday, councillors debated a motion that would have required Shropshire Council’s officers to research the willingness of people in Shropshire for a referendum on a council tax rise above 1.99%. The motion was put forward by myself and seconded by follow Lib Dem Hannah Fraser, who represents Abbey ward in Shrewsbury.
The motion arose from calls from town and parish councils for Shropshire Council to raise council tax to avoid huge rises in parish precepts. Ludlow Town Council’s mayor has been vocal in calling for a rise in council tax to prevent the burden for services that serve a wide area falling on Ludlow ratepayers alone.
Regrettably, the motion was all but lost.
Ludlow Town Council is considering a request from Shropshire Council to take on a broad range of services. These could cost an extra £1 million a year and hike the precept in the town from around £100 a year to more than £300. The alternative could be closure of the library, leisure centre, visitor information centre and other services. This will discussed on at the full council meeting on Wednesday night. This could well be the most important meeting the town council has held for many years.
The transfer of services raises what I call the “Ludford Question” – should the cost of the devolved services be imposed on Ludlow council taxpayers alone or spread more widely?