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Where are you?

Byline: Sandy Mckenzie

The search is on for 2,000 missing people who could boost a council's coffers by millions of pounds.

Middlesbrough Council is carrying out a trawl of wards to establish the exact population.

The exercise is being undertaken as part of the council's efforts to convince the Government the borough has more residents than official figures show.

The last Census indicated a figure of around 135,000 people.

Middlesbrough Council said that figure is flawed.

If the council can convince the Government the real figure is around 137,000 residents it would mean between pounds 2m and pounds 3m extra in Government cash.

Middlesbrough Council's Executive has given its backing to a 6.9pc increase in council tax levels for local governments services in the coming year. That was confirmed by the full council on March 3.

Middlesbrough's Mayor, Ray Mallon, told a meeting of the Council Executive that one of the borough's greatest problems was a declining population but it was falling nowhere near the figure suggested by the Office of National Statistics.

"If we can get this put right we could be talking about attacking rather than defending all the time. Three months ago the council finances looked increasingly bleak and we were looking at a council tax rise of around 12pc. Slowly but surely by good management that figure has come down to below 7pc but I think that is still too high."

Paul Slocombe, the council's finance chief, said it had been accepted by the Office of National Statistics that Middlesbrough's figures were not what would have been expected.

He said: "If we can reach agreement with the Office of National Statistics by the end of August the new figure will be applied retrospectively."
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Title Annotation:News Local
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Mar 13, 2004
Words:291
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