RESIDENTS in Oswestry will pay more council tax this year after town councillors voted to raise the precept.

At the town council's finance meeting on Monday, the councillors' ballot came down to chairman Councillor Chris Schofield's deciding vote after being locked at seven for and against.

This tipped the vote in favour of a two per cent increase to council tax, meaning for a Band D property, council tax for the year will cost £78.07 – £1.53 more than the 2019/2020 figure.

The council revealed it is looking to raise a precept of £416,000 for the 2020/2021 year.

Councillors eventually backed the decision to increase council tax by two per cent after discussions about whether the budget was sustainable for the next four years.

Cllr Duncan Kerr raised the issue and said the council must be aware of how much money it is using of its reserves.

He said: “If the expenditure and income of the council does accord with the four-year plan, we would be drawing more than £800,000 out of our reserves over the next four years.

“Our reserves are now above the level we need of £1.7million, but if you look at figures, you will see that if we follow the plan, they’ll be down to about £1.3million.

“We can’t run the council on reserves. It could be that the budget is set on a worse case scenario, and it might be better than that, but we have to be reminded that once we set £1.7million as the bottom figure of our reserves, then the four-year plans become unsustainable.”

However, Cllr Kerr’s comments prompted a stern response from Cllr Schofield, who said the budget set out was plausible.

“I think you’re painting a picture of Armageddon – the figures to me look fine,” he said.

“These are estimates. In the last 10 years the balance has gone up.

“I’m a great believer in ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’. This council has a proud tradition and a proud history of keeping council tax as low as possible so that the good people of Oswestry don’t pay a penny more than what they should do.”

Cllr Sandy Best responded to Cllr Schofield by saying the council should consider some of the points made by Cllr Kerr.

She said: “I do feel that we as a council do tend to be a little bit charitable in comparison to other councils in the way that we always look at everybody that’s here as though they’re in dire poverty, unemployed or elderly.

“But, I do feel that every time we’ve moved two or three per cent increases, knowing the cost of everything that is coming at us, it isn’t necessarily covered by that small rise that we’re asking for.

“So, I do feel as though we need to take heed to what [Cllr Kerr] is saying and look at it with a longer term view for this council rather than getting caught up in the emotion of words like unemployment, poverty and Band A.”