Shropshire Council is withdrawing support for the county’s rural communities (updated)

The council customer service point in Ludlow Library is open four days a week. But plans are afoot to reduce its opening to two days a week, Tuesday and Friday. This will mean that vulnerable people will find it harder to access support and get referrals to the food bank. Age Concern told the Shropshire Star that the countywide cuts will be a serious blow for the elderly.

Other cuts to community support are on the way. Shropshire Council is no longer interested in supporting the rural communities in our county.

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Ludlow Town Council to hike its share of council tax by 20%

It’s the season for deciding the council tax we will pay from April. Last year, Ludlow Town Council raised the precept, it’s share of your council tax, by 24%. This year the rise will be 19.5%. That means that the precept will have gone up by half in just two years. As with last year, this looks to be largely an anticipatory rise to cover the cost of taking on services from Shropshire Council and extra staff. But so far, the town council has yet to take on these extra services or appoint a deputy town clerk.[1] That, along with delays to vital repairs to the Guildhall, seems to be the main reason why the council has failed to spend 25% of its budget this year.

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Council tax bills set to rise next year as everyone passes the buck on who funds services

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.

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Shropshire Council agrees to buy a shopping centre, build a road, refurbish its offices but not build council housing

Yesterday, Shropshire Council agreed in private session to buy the Darwin, Pride Hill and Riverside shopping centres. BBC Radio Shropshire is suggesting that the purchase price is £60 million. The day before, the cabinet agreed to spend £300,000 on consultancy fees to examine refurbishing Shirehall at the cost of more than £18 million. If the government approves the North West Relief Road around Shrewsbury, the council will chip in £21 million and pay for any overspend. In the same breath, it is aiming to raise £1.2 million a year by imposing contributions to council tax on some of the poorest in our county.

This cruel imbalance in spending and taxation partly arises from political ambitions and dogma. It also arises from spending cuts and the obscurity of local government accounting rules that prevent us spending capital receipts on services.

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