When the council tax bills land on the mat or in your inbox next month, they will show that your overall tax bill has gone up by 10%.
The biggest charge is for Shropshire Council, £1,639.01 for a Band D property, an increase of 4.99% on the previous year. Ludlow Town Council’s precept goes up by 10.5% to £218.93 for Band D. West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner will charge £264.50, an increase of 9.3%, and Shropshire & Wrekin Fire Authority £111.16, an increase of 4.3%.
Councils are suffering inflation like everyone else. But the council tax hike comes at a time when other costs have been going up for householders. Prices are increasing across almost every service and utility. Food prices have risen faster than at any point in our lifetimes.
Ludlow Town Council is now the highest charging council in Shropshire with the exception of Bishop’s Castle, which has long been a high charging council.
Shifnal has held its precept level for seven years. It has seen huge expansion in recent years and with that an increase in properties paying council tax,. Shrewsbury Town Council has not increased its very low precept significantly. At £63.02 it is not much more than a quarter of that charged in Ludlow. Shrewsbury has the advantage of economy of scale and, like Shifnal, has a lot of new housing.
That is not the case in Ludlow. There are nearly 80 new homes within Ludlow Town Council’s patch which will begin to pay council tax from this year onwards. But most new housing is being built in Ludford parish. Although, the new Ludford residents will use markets and open spaces maintained by Ludlow Town Council, they will not contribute towards the costs. Ludford residents will pay a precept of £22.98 next year, a reduction of 6.9%.
This is known as the Ludford Question, which I first raised in 2016. There has been no progress on merging Ludlow and Ludford since, though it makes sense to draw the ring of suburban settlements around Ludlow into the same policy making environment. This would also increase the combined income from the precept by around £100,000 a year. It could mean to the charges to households being cut. That would be novel!
Council tax has always been a difficult tax. It is regressive, hitting people with lower incomes disproportionally. It is determined within boundaries that often date back more than a century. If you live in a parish on an edge of a town, your council tax will be lower even though you use the town’s services.
The current geography of most town councils in the county no longer works. Once compact town are now expanding beyond their borders. Ludlow, Whitchurch, Market Drayton and Oswestry, along with Shrewsbury which is expanding into Bicton and Bayston Hill parishes. This is not problem in Shifnal, where the town council area encompasses the surrounding parishes.
There is a desperate need to radically overhaul town council boundaries. I don’t see that happening any time soon. But until it happens, the difference in parish precept between our town and its suburbs will remain an anomaly.
It is time to replace council tax with a fairer tax system.