Shropshire Council is hypocritical when it argues for more rural funding

I was astounded to hear Shropshire Council’s Cecelia Motley speak on BBC Radio Shropshire yesterday morning (begins at 2:36).

Her message was spot on about the way that national funds are diverted to urban areas at the expense of rural districts. She has been a strong champion of the need for a better funding deal. But forgive me if I despair that that Shropshire’s three conservative MPs and its Conservative council cabinet have been talking about better funding for sparsely populated counties like Shropshire for years. A fair deal is not even in sight at the moment. It lies in only in those promissory notes of politics. Few people think this one will ever be cashed in.

But that’s not the reason I’m angry with Cecelia. I’m infuriated because she failed to acknowledge that there is urban rural divide here in Shropshire too. Drop into Shrewsbury and you can ride on a Shropshire Council subsidised bus. In Ludlow, the clapped out service doesn’t get a penny of subsidy. None of the buses running today can accommodate disabled people. In Ludlow, all council operations are being scaled down. We are going to lose our local tip.

Ludlow is a big town for this part of the world. Services are much, much worse when you get out into the South Shropshire Hills. Shropshire Council has disgracefully cancelled the rural Link bus service. The mobile library service is next on the list of rural services set to go.

Faster broadband is rolling out. But many market towns won’t get it until 2015 or a couple of years after. The most rural areas in South Shropshire have no date for delivery at all.

Shropshire is fast becoming a county that is pumping money into its urban centres at the expense of its rural areas. That’s just what happens nationally, where cities and towns get the lion’s share of public cash and sparse rural counties get the scraps.

Of course it costs more to fund the more rural services in Shropshire. But Shropshire Council doesn’t seem to recognise that. It is frankly hypocritical for the council to demand better funding for rural areas from the government while penalising our own county’s rural areas.

Whatever happened to leading by example?