Just a week ago, Malcolm Pate, the leader of Shropshire Council until the 4 May elections, was confident of being re-elected as leader of the Conservative group on Shropshire Council. The Conservative leader is always voted in as leader of the council. Now, the Conservative group have ousted Pate and replaced him by Shrewsbury councillor, Peter Nutting.
Only a week ago, Malcolm Pate used an interview on BBC Radio Shropshire to boast of his confidence in seeing off any “superegos” that might challenge him. His task, he told the interviewers, was to get “the council out of the mire it was in when I took over 15 months ago.” His belief that he had the backing of his Tory colleagues has proved to be wrong.
Last night, Copthorne councillor Peter Nutting, a former leader of Shrewsbury & Atcham Council, was elected to replace Pate as leader of the Conservative group. He will be the third Conservative leader in under two years.
I wish him well. He has a tough job to do keep the council’s shrinking finances in balance, while providing the public services that Shropshire residents need and demand. He needs to be steer a steadier ship than Malcom Pate – who treatened town and parish councils that if they did not agree take on services such as libraries and leisure centres within months, he would close them – only to withdraw the threat. For all his claimed experience, he seemed not to understand how vital the role of a county council is or how difficult it is for local organisations to take over services at short notice. Or even that it is often inappropriate for them to do so.
Nutting needs to be less of an axe man than Pate’s predecessor Keith Barrow, who seemed at times to want to annihilate the council. One thing Pate got right is that the council must invest in its people, facilities and services. But a review of the extraordinary costs of upgrading the council’s buildings and computers must an urgent priority for the new leader.
Whittington councillor, Steve Charmley, will continue as deputy leader of the Conservatives and Shropshire Council.
These positions will be confirmed at the council AGM on Thursday.
In the Lib Dem camp, Roger Evans, councillor for Longden, will continue as group leader. Heather Kidd, Hannah Fraser and Andy Boddington will be deputy leaders. I expect to concentrate on strategy rather than the day to day machinations of the council. I’m looking forward to it.
There is no word as I type this from Labour. But I am not expecting any change to its leadership on the council.