The Green Party has accused the Conservative leaders of Herefordshire Council of leaving towns and parishes “in limbo” after blocking a Green move to ease a parish-level funding crisis.
The council approved a 1.9 per cent increase in council tax (on 3.2.17) but rejected a budget amendment by Green group leader Jenny Bartlett to raise the figure to 1.99 per cent. The increase would still have been within the Government 2 per cent limit without triggering a county referendum.
“Financial cutbacks are damaging the ability of town and parish councils to take on and run services as now expected of them under the localism agenda,” said Councillor Bartlett. “Herefordshire Council’s Tory leadership has left them in limbo.
“My proposal would have raised £80,000 for a pot of money to fund parish-level projects – a modest sum but a step in the right direction.
“It was in no way intended to replace the parish grant withdrawn by Herefordshire Council. Leominster Town Council had £43,000 taken away by the loss of its grant – a measure of how much the parishes are hurting at a time when they are having to take on extra responsibilities.”
Cllr Bartlett accused Conservative councillors of failing to read the details and dismissing out-of-hand her proposal for a ‘spend-to-save bridge to enable service transformation.’
“While £80,000 could be said to be a ‘drop in the ocean’ in terms of Herefordshire Council’s spending that is not so at parish level,” said Cllr Bartlett,
“The ability to access additional small funds for specific projects can make all the difference. At parish level residents can see the impact of that money and the benefits to their community that result.
“Increasingly parishes are working together to pool resources to save services such as buses. For example Bodenham, Stoke Prior Group Parish, Leominster Town Council and Community Wheels have replaced the withdrawn 427 public bus with a community mini bus.
“The 490 bus from Leominster to Ludlow is now supported by all the parishes along its route and recently attracted inward investment from Ludlow Town Council which recognised the economic and social value of a vital link.”
Cllr Bartlett added: “The Greens are appealing to the council leaders for common sense. Services are being cut now, parishes are hurting now – now is the time to act while communal infrastructure is still intact.”