I was tied up with meetings and business yesterday and only spotted Shropshire Council’s April Fools Day joke late in the day. The council celebrated its tenth birthday and no doubt there was much back slapping. The press release says everything about Shropshire Council. It pleads that it has had a few difficult years. Those difficult years were created by the Conservative leadership which became obsessed with stripping everything out of the council and either transferring functions to its company, ip&e or closing them down altogether. The council company of course failed. The council has improved and in its press release yesterday it boasted a suite of achievements, all of them in Shrewsbury.
In the celebratory press release, Peter Nutting, Shropshire Council’s Leader said:
“After a few difficult years, Shropshire Council is now settling down to be a well-respected and forward-looking council. The council has excellent social care teams and is becoming much more commercially-orientated.”
There are a lot of good teams in Shirehall that could have had a mention, including planning, but Nutting is rarely fulsome in his praise for officers.
The council’s chief executive then takes up the story:
“Shropshire Council delivers a massive range of services to meet the needs of our communities. It’s been a tough 10 years in local government. We have saved around £200 million.”
That’s true. But he continues that the council has:
“Delivered some amazing projects such as Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, the Battlefield Energy Recovery Facility, growth in housing, the successful Theatre Severn, University Centre Shrewsbury, and Flaxmill regeneration.”
That’s a museum in Shrewsbury, an incinerator in Shrewsbury, a theatre in Shrewsbury, a university centre in Shrewsbury and regeneration in Shrewsbury. These are all great projects but they show that the council’s only significant investment has been in Shrewsbury.
“We have ambitious plans for the future with our exciting new housing company and completing Shrewsbury North West Relief Road.”
The new housing company will build in Shrewsbury, Oswestry and Ellesmere with little hope of projects elsewhere for the best part of a decade, if not longer. The North West Relief Road will be of no benefit to Ludlow.
I am appalled that this press release makes no mention of rural Shropshire at all. The market towns and villages of Shropshire are also vital to the county’s economy. They have been ignored for the last decade by Shropshire Council.
Everyone in this county finances Shropshire Council. Everyone resident deserves investment in their local area.
It is time that Shropshire Council took the needs and economic power of the county’s rural areas seriously.