Year: 2012

Shropshire Council’s cabinet today decided to charge for on street parking in Ludlow on Sundays. This is decision is a blow for Ludlow. Shoppers are very sensitive to parking charges. No town can afford to scare off potential customers. The length of time shoppers can park on the streets on Sundays should certainly be restricted to encourage them to use the car parks. But they should be able to park for free (though they should have to display a ticket issued without charge). Charging when other towns don’t charge is plain daft.

On Wednesday upward of a thousand enthusiasts descended on Westminster to demand protection for one of the nation’s great heritage assets. Beer. The Labour government of old was unduly fond of price and tax escalators, which generally take the form of retail price index plus a bit more. I have always regarded this as a rather odd fiscal mechanism because it simply creates a circularity that feeds itself. Costs go up, the RPI duly rises, and costs go up again as a result. It beats me why the coalition has decided to maintain this blunt policy. Fiscal escalators might be acceptable in times of plenty, but as the economy bounces in and out of recession the circularity begins to consume itself. If prices are raised when money and credit is scarce, people buy less. Businesses are undermined by struggling sales and rising costs. Tax revenues fall and welfare payments rise. People buy less, and the circularity spirals downwards. This brings us back to beer. The escalator adds 2% plus inflation to beer duty. There has been a 42% increase in duty in just four years and tax is now around one-third of the price of pint. The result is that…

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I take my hat off to Shropshire Council for its excellent work in securing Queen Elizabeth II Fields status for 23 sites. This should ensure that these green spaces are preserved in perpetuity. In a country that is around nine-tenths countryside, it might seem surprising that we are often short of green space, and more surprising still that the problem is often most acute in small towns and villages which are wrapped in green fields. But the countryside for all its beauty is often not accessible for a short stroll or a safe place for children to play. People, especially children and the infirm, need accessible green spaces on their doorsteps where they can play or simply take the air. It is these spaces, along with school playing fields, that have come under so much development pressure in recent years. Governments of all persuasions have of course promised to preserve urban and rural leisure spaces. But councils of all persuasions have too often found pressing needs, often the lure of cash, to sell off their green spaces. The government is also currently weakening town green law, aiming to make it much harder for communities to protect much loved spaces threatened…

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If it’s not the state – and national government and many local councils seem increasingly disinterested – if it’s not charities – and many are stretched beyond the limits of their resources – then who will take up the cause for those that are poor, jobless, old or infirm? In Ludlow at least, that crusade is set to be taken up the churches. Yesterday evening, as the first hard frost of the winter chilled the town’s historic streets, more than 200 people crowded into the Methodist Church. They were gathering to discuss a distressing report on the crisis facing many of Ludlow’s poorer and vulnerable residents. “Ludlow under Pressure: a report on urgent social needs” has been compiled over several months by Churches Together Around Ludlow (CTAL). It is a wakeup call for anyone so entranced by the town’s historic and natural beauty that they fail to see the poverty and daily struggle that so many of its residents face. The report challenges those people in the town that live in relative comfort to reach out to those in most need. Earlier in the day, the Reverend John Edwards told BBC Radio Shropshire about a woman who was compelled to…

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The Lib Dems are hardly the most popular party nationally at the moment. It’s proving hard to be the junior member of a coalition in tough times. Nick Clegg’s approval ratings are also pretty dire. When then should I join the Lib Dems and stand as a Lib Dem for Shropshire Council in 2013? It is best if I start my explanation with why I am standing for Shropshire Council at all. I have campaigned since my school days, cutting my teeth on a damp squib of a campaign to rid our sixth form of school uniforms. The colour theme was, after all, a hideous bottle green. It was not long before I was campaigning against the demolition of a Victorian arcade on Northampton’s market square. That campaign failed to stop the bulldozers but just months later we succeeded in blocking an urban expressway that would have flattened many of the town’s terraced streets. I guess I have campaigned one way or another ever since, including full time for the Campaign to Protect Rural England in Oxfordshire a few years back. Now settled in Ludlow, I have decided that I want to influence policy directly and become a councillor. Why?…

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