COUNCILLORS in Oswestry have started the process of trying to move the town council away from over-relying on car park income.

As councillors passed the town's budget for 2021/22 on Monday, a number of councillors were in agreement on beginning discussions on how council income could be diversified in the next five to 10 years.

A motion was put forward by former Oswestry mayor Councillor Paul Milner asking for ways that money from the Smithfield site sales could funds services in the future and help generate its own funding streams.

He said: "We should be using the Smithfield money to diversify and look at other funding streams.

"We don’t want to lose services. We don’t need to rely on car parking."

He was seconded in his motion by current mayor Cllr Duncan Kerr, who raised the subject after Oswestry Town Council finance officer Roger Dyke told the meeting that future budgets could be impeded by further lockdown and Covid-19 restrictions.

Cllr Kerr said: "We as a council need to look ahead to the future and of not relying on the car parks.

"I wants to talk about the sustainability for the council over the next five to 10 years – not over the next one or two – and get agreement across the council."

The motion was passed by a majority of councillors; however, no further details were given of when the discussions intended to start.

Meanwhile, Mr Dyke told the meeting that challenges faced by the council in setting the new budget had already intensified or changed within the time frame of its completion and it being voted for.

He said: "This is probably one of the most difficult budgets in recent years with do many uncertainties and loss of income with savings.

"We prepared this a month ago but already the new lockdown has caused more uncertainly especially with car parking.

"There are many uncertainties. We will be ok for reserves this year, but next year I am not sure. It depends on car park recovery."

Councillors voted in the budget, including an £11,000 rise in council tax precept to £425,000, which works out at an extra £2.35 more than last year – paying £80.42 compared to £78.07 – on an average Band D property.

Also included in the budget were projects potentially allocated money from the Smithfield Windfall, amounting to £3.7 million, including £600,000 on Town Centre public realm improvements and Oswestry Town Council Capital Programme, respectively.

There is also £500,000 earmarked for Heritage Action Zone match funding.