Malcolm Pate is new Shropshire Council leader elect – it’s an opportunity to change for the better

It has not been a good few weeks for Shropshire Council with the sudden resignation of its leader, Keith Barrow. Everyone has been asking: “Where will the council go from here?” Now we know one part of that. Councillor Malcolm Pate, the representative for Albrighton, is to lead the unitary council at its most difficult time since it was created from five district councils in 2009.

The new leader was elected tonight by the Conservative group in private session. Deputy leader Steve Charmley had publicly thrown his hat into the ring. Many thought he would get the leadership. But as BBC Radio Shropshire reports on Facebook tonight, Malcolm Pate was elected subject to the ratification of full council.

A former leader of Shropshire County Council, Malcolm brings experience and stability to the council at a time at a time when it needs just that.

He could and should change the way this council is run.

I hope that he will recognise that strong leadership is not about concentrating power but about sharing responsibility. I hope he sees that opposition councillors can be a resource and should not be driven to the margins as happened during the Barrow era.

I would plead with Malcolm to reinvent scrutiny committees. They should operate like parliamentary select committees, which was the original intention when the strong leadership model was introduced. He should ensure that scrutiny sessions are chaired by councillors from across the political spectrum, not just by a handpicked group of Conservatives.

The days of a single cabinet member making decisions that affect the future of this county should end. Decisions should no longer be made in sessions from which the press and public and excluded. They should be made by cabinet in public (subject to the usual exemptions).

Alternatively, Malcom could be even bolder and persuade his colleagues to abandon the strong leader and cabinet model. He could reintroduce the committee governance that served councils so well for more than a century.

One of his biggest tasks will be to win back the trust of town and parish councils. They have felt ignored, often abused, as power and funding has been centralised in Shirehall after unification. He should work towards ensuring that decisions that only affect one place should be devolved to that place.

Malcom’s first priority should be to launch a cross-party review of the council’s future finances. Do we need to cut so much after the Autumn Statement? Can we raise more money?

Up high on his priorities also, must be reform of ip&e. The company should become an innovation hub for the council. It needs to be an incubator where new ideas are generated and passed back into the main council and town and parish councils around the county. It should concentrate on new ways of working, not overambitious plans to make profits.

The new leader will be ratified at a council meeting on 17 December. That vote will almost certainly be a technicality. There are 47 Tories on the council, easily outnumbering Lib Dems (13), Labour (9) and Independents (5).

I wish Malcom well in what is a very challenging job indeed.

5 thoughts on “Malcolm Pate is new Shropshire Council leader elect – it’s an opportunity to change for the better

  1. Malcolm Pate? The undistinguished leader everyone was so pleased to see the back of in 2009? Better than Keith Barrow? I bet you won’t be applauding Councillor Pate this time next year. This unforgiving job chews up and spits out leaders. By 2020, 75% of Shropshire’s budget will be spent on 2% of the population. Maybe, in that year, we’ll be welcoming back 69 year-old Mr Barrow, bringing “experience and stability” to Shropshire council after more turbulent years spent failing to reconcile our need for services with our unwillingness to pay for them.

  2. I’m happy to publish a wide range of comment, including from people who think I am talking through my hat. But please keep comments temperate and avoid insults please. I don’t like having act as a censor. I can publish comments that criticise others but not insult them.

  3. I am so grateful to Cllr Boddington for bringing this into the open. Many had grave doubts when ip&e was first set up…it left room for “mismanagement” and no detailed accounts were ever accessible to the public. Its history of management changes seem to bear out public misgivings. The Morda business would also appear to justify public misgivings as to Mr Barrow’s suitability as Leader of the Council…. his first duty was to the people of Shropshire rather than taking advantage of his position for personal gain. His misdemeanours have tainted other councillors who have currently been supporting him with accolades within the public view. Shropshire Council needs to be open to scrutiny at all times – and not run as some sort of “secret society” with major decisions being made by a chosen few in closed meetings. Malcolm Pate has an enormous task ahead of him in sorting out the finances and sweeping away the odour and debris which has accrued under the previous Leader. I hope he can help to regain the confidence of the people of Shropshire in their Council and its important work. I send him my best wishes.

  4. Andy Boddington for Shropshire Council Leader! Your honesty and tenacity are a rare quality , Andy, and I thank you for keeping us informed.
    My worry is that you may have set the bar too high for Mr Pate… I don’t remember much weeping and wailing at his last departure. Nevertheless , I will reserve judgement for the time being.

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