TOWNS and parishes have been left 'in limbo' after moves to ease a parish-level funding crisis were blocked, the county's Green Party has claimed.
Herefordshire Council approved a 1.9 per cent increase in council tax for non adult social care services earlier this month but rejected a budget amendment by Green group leader Jenny Bartlett to raise the figure to 1.99 per cent.
The party says the increase would still have been within the government's two per cent limit without triggering a county referendum but would have helped struggling parish and town councils.
Councillor Bartlett said: "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.
“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“It was in no way intended to replace the parish grant withdrawn by Herefordshire Council."
The total council tax increase approved was 3.9 per cent – two per cent of which will go to adult social care.
Cllr Bartlett accused Conservative councillors of failing to read the details and dismissing out-of-hand her proposal.
However, in response, the leader of the Conservative Party, Cllr Tony Johnson, said it is ‘absolutely ludicrous’ that parish and town councils will have been left in limbo after the proposal was rejected.
He said there was no plan as to how the £80,000 would be divided and distributed between the 134 parish councils. It would have, if split evenly, worked out at around just £650 per parish council.
“We will always try to help parishes where we can and we could have raised more on council tax. We could have put it up by an extra three per cent instead of two,” he said.
“That would have been allowable. But it is our collective view that in this county, which has the lowest average income in the whole of the country, we want to be trying to keep taxes down.”
However, Cllr Bartlett said that while £80,000 could be said to be a ‘drop in the ocean’ in terms of Herefordshire Council’s spending that is not the case at parish level.
“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,” she added.