THE cost of the Dudley Council's Big Question consultation will be around £6,000 according to the authority's finance chief.

Borough residents have been asked to have their say on whether the Labour-run council should hold a referendum on a council tax rise of more than two per cent or make drastic spending cuts.

The consultation was launched earlier this month and Dudley cabinet member for finance, Cllr Pete Lowe, has revealed around 3,000 people have already responded.

Cllr Lowe said: "This is brilliant value for money. It is not just about a council tax rise but what the public see as priority services.

"Last year the figure was 28, we have already got 100 times more than that."

Cllr Lowe rejects the argument from opponents that the consultation is a copout to avoid making hard choices on spending.

He said: "We have a legal obligation go out and consult, we will still have to make hard political decisions and we are not shirking that.

"When we have to make those decisions it will be informed - we have asked the public to give their views."

The cost of the consultation is divided between media publicity, notices in public buildings and postal charges for pre-paid envelopes to return questionairres.

The consultation runs until the end of February and so far the bill stands at £5,500.

Money previously earmarked to pay allowances to chairmen of the now defunct council area committees will be diverted to cover the consultation costs.

Meanwhile, Cllr Lowe and Children's Services supremo Cllr Tim Crumpton will be facing tough questions from young people this week at a debate on council finances and the consultation in Stourbridge.

The event, for anyone aged under 25 from Dudley Borough, will be at Base Studios, Rufford Road, on Friday January 25.

It has been organised by the Base in conjunction with the Stourbridge News to give young people a chance to put their questions and comments to the councillors during a Question Time style debate.

For more information, or to submit a question, email