Shropshire Council on Thursday unanimously agreed a 3.99% increase in council tax. This is made up of a 2% dedicated increase for adult social care and a 1.99% increase for general spending such as highways. This will take the Band D charge for 2020/21 to £1,443.62.
To this must be added £102.25 for fire, £225.20 for police and £174.27 for Ludlow Town Council. This will take the total council tax for a Band D property in Ludlow to £1,945.34, an increase of 4.3% over last year.
Ludford residents will pay £149.60 less than Ludlow residents, even though they rely on Ludlow for services. A Shropshire Council review that begins in 2021 will review this.
Shropshire Council will charge a Band D household £1,443.62. This increase of 3.99% on the current year is the maximum allowed by the government without holding a referendum. Council tax will raise £163.934m towards the council’s £225.522m budget for 2020/21, which the council also agreed on Thursday.
Shropshire & Wrekin Fire Authority will charge a Band D household £102.25, an increase of 1.99%. A referendum would have been mandated if the increase had been above 2.99%.
West Mercia Police & Crime Commissioner will charge £225.20, an increase of 3.94%. Police and Crime Commissioners must hold a referendum if the precept increases by more than £24. Next year’s increase is £8.87, so a referendum is not triggered.
Ludlow Town Council will charge £174.27, an increase of 9.53%. Across the Shropshire unitary area, the average town and parish council precept increase will be 6.65%. There is no cap on precept increases for town and parish councils and no requirement to hold a referendum whatever the increase.
The Ludford Question
Just outside Ludlow, the parish of Ludford will pay a Band D council tax of £1,795.74. That’s £149.60 lower than Ludlow because Ludford only charges a parish precept of £24.67. This is known as the Ludford Question – the parish is dependent on Ludlow for services but it does not contribute towards them. Most of Ludlow’s housing development will be in Ludford parish but the occupiers will not pay towards the local services they use. There are 400 homes currently planned to expand Ludlow into Ludlow. Over the next thirty, forty or fifty years, this will increase to 1,000 homes.
We cannot continue with a financial model where residents who are dependent on Ludlow Town Council supported services do not pay for them. That is the Ludford Question.
On Thursday, Shropshire Council agreed in principle to a review of parish boundaries after May 2021. It would make sense to include the housing and employment areas of Ludford into the Ludlow Town area so that they contribute to the growing burden of local services that must be borne by town and parish councils as Shropshire Council shirks responsibility for them. That means abolishing Ludford Parish Council and transferring its more rural areas to adjacent areas.
That will not be popular with most Ludford residents. But if people are to use services, they must be paid for.