Officers have threatened me with a complaint to the council’s monitoring officer if I leak a word of secret conversations on future development sites around Ludlow. When I get a minute, I’ll write on the details and why they are fundamentally flawed. But if I do so, I am told I will be reported to the “monitoring officer”. This is the equivalent of being dragged out of class by the ear when I was an infant and made to stand before the head teacher (that happened a few times).
Welcome to Shropshire Council 2018. Huge telescreens dominate Shirehall pumping out non-stop propaganda. Officers threaten councillors for being outspoken and championing democracy. In Shropshire Council, every step it takes forward is followed by two steps back.
The process of developing a new local plan, in this case an update of Shropshire Council’s core strategy, is complex and guided by planning acts and regulations. But I have never encountered a process like this. Secret meetings are being held across the county on potential site allocations – that’s building sites to me and you. These meetings are not minuted or announced. But they will form the basis of a public consultation in October.
I don’t do secret consultations. I don’t do stitching up planning before it becomes public. I have said that I will publish the documents (which are anyway releasable under freedom of information laws.) I have been told today:
If you do proceed with releasing the information shared with you then I need to make you aware that this would be brought to the attention of the Monitoring Officer as a code of conduct issue. I would be grateful if you can please confirm receipt of this email and your intention by midday tomorrow so that we can prepare accordingly.
I don’t take threats over conduct. I don’t take deadlines to respond to a threat.
The monitoring officer complained to me a couple of years ago about bullying in the council when Keith Barrow was leader and the ineffectiveness of opposition leaders in dealing with it. That happened before my time as a councillor but it seems that nothing has changed.
Hear clearly in Shirehall. You run on public money. You need to work in a public way. If I need to have whip round to install stocks in Ludlow Castle so that I can be punished on this imaginary offence, I will crowdfund the cost.
It is disgraceful that elected councillors are threatened in this way. But it sadly not surprising.