Shropshire Council makes shameful decision on town and parish council grant (updated)

This article has been corrected to reflect the comments of David Turner below.

The decision was perhaps inevitable but that makes it no less shameful.

On Thursday morning, Shropshire Councillors voted by 43 votes to 23 to keep back more than half a million pounds of government money that was due to town and parish councils around the county.

The votes was on party lines with Labour and the independents voting for a Lib Dem amendment to dip into Shropshire Council’s reserves to ensure that local councils would get the money promised them by central government. All the Conservatives voted against the amendment. In doing so, they supported Shropshire Council retaining money that does not rightfully belong to it (how councillors voted).

Last week, I published a letter from local government minister Kris Hopkins urging council leaders to pass the money on. This was raised during the meeting but was ignored by the 43 members that favoured taking money from parish councils.

The two members of the public who asked questions on this topic were treated shamefully.

During public questions, Rosemary Abbiss spoke for the Shropshire Association Local Councils. She asked how Shropshire Council was going to react to the Kris Hopkins letter and how it is planning to work with town and parish councils in the future. Portfolio holder for finance Mike Owen replied:

What I propose to do is to think about the question outside of this gathering and formally write to you in writing my response.

David Cooper from Bridgnorth said there are main ways in which savings could be made. He raised the Kris Hopkins letter. Seeking a “yes or no” response, Mr Cooper asked if Mike Owen was absolutely sure that going against the government’s wishes over the Council Tax Support Grant is the only realistic way this council can balance its books. Mike Owen replied:

It is a very important subject and a lot of consultation has gone on. But like the previous speaker, I think it’s important I take away your comments and observations and formally reply on behalf of myself to you outside this meeting.

These are inappropriate responses. Imagine if David Cameron stood up in Prime Minister’s Questions and told opposition members that he would go away, think and write back on an item relating to the national budget. There would be uproar. People would claim that the prime minister was not up to the job and was denying democratic debate. And of course, in the Shropshire Council case, the decision on parish council funding has been made long before Rosemary Abbiss and David Cooper get their written responses.

This was not the only time the debate was handled shamefully. During the debate on retaining the parish council funds, a conservative councillor shouted: “I move that the question be put.” This is a procedural device that called an immediate vote on the Lib Dem amendment. That meant that at least three councillors, including myself, were denied the opportunity to speak before the vote. Neither council leader Keith Barrow nor the Speaker, David Lloyd wanted the debate to end, but the motion could not be sidestepped. The vote was held and the amendment calling for the money to be handed to town and parish councils was lost.

This decision is about more than money.  And it’s about more than politics. It’s about trust and morality. How can town and parish councils trust Shropshire Council again when it stuffs its own budgets with money due to others? And how can they respect Shropshire Council when it ducks questions and curtails debates?

In the future, town councils like Ludlow will be asked to take on more services and facilities from Shropshire Council. If that is to happen, there must be mutual trust between Shropshire Council and local councils.

That trust was severely damaged today. It was a shameful day for local government.

13 thoughts on “Shropshire Council makes shameful decision on town and parish council grant (updated)

  1. Also a shameful day for democracy increasing Barrow and his cronies are becoming a corporate dictatorship, even it seems becoming Mavericks against their own party’s recommendations. What a shower, we should remember this in May.

  2. from day one it was more than obvious what was the intention of Barrow and co. – of course it is undemocratic to deprive town and parish councils of their rightful allocation of funds but does anyone think this compares in seriousness with depriving over a 1000 workers of their livelihood, massacring services and setting up a private company as a way of funnelling monies to their private company cronies?
    How many people supported the union demonstrations against the loss of jobs – those first cruel swingeing cuts identified quite clearly that this was a group of people without heart or morals.
    joyce brand

  3. Andy, your normal accurate reporting of meetings has slipped a bit.

    Putting the record straight, it was Councillor Brian Williams who moved “that the question be put”. I know, because I could see him and he was sitting within ten feet of my table. I’ll remind you that the Speaker’s name is Cllr David Lloyd MBE.

    Readers might be forgiven for thinking that the three councillors “denied the opportunity to speak before the vote” were all intending to speak in support of the LibDem amendment. Not so – I was one of those three and I was going to speak in opposition to it.

  4. Thanks David. I had misread my notes and you are quite right on Brian calling for the question to be put. Also on my embarrassing typo on the Speaker’s name. Many thanks for correcting me.

  5. DAVID, I AM SURE YOUR VOTERS WILL REMEMBER HOW YOU HAVE VOTED AGAINST PARTY POLICY WHEN THE TIME COMES.

  6. ANDY IT WOULD BE OF INTEREST IF YOU COULD PUBLISH HOW MANY COUNCILS HAVE FOLLOWED MR BARROWS EXAMPLE OF “THIEFT”

  7. Would you consider either sending the details of this “thievery” or allowing someone else to contact Private Eye? It is ripe for exposure in their Rotten Boroughs section. Along with the scandalous I.p&e ‘smash and grab’ public shaming may not work on the leadership of Shropshire Council but it may alert more people in goverment and the wider populace.
    Little or no reportage in the local media only emphasises the need for wider attention of the completely immoral and questionably or barely legal actions of key figures in local government, in Shropshire.

Comments are closed.