Social mobility in Shropshire is in free fall – we are failing young people

It is not a surprise that the remaining members of the government’s Social Mobility Commission have resigned this weekend.[1] Anger has been growing for months that the government has been distracted from improving individual lives by the demands of Brexit.

Shropshire is one of the worst areas in England for young people to get out of the trap of struggling households and poor education. Last week, the county was ranked the 237th worst out of 324 local authorities for social mobility.[2] Just a year before, we were at rank 185. We have skidded downwards.

Social mobility is important. When it works, people from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds get on in life, gaining the education and skills they need and getting better paid jobs. But the latest data show that Shropshire is going backwards in the social mobility stakes.

The Social Mobility Commission, which compiles the data, has made it clear that the biggest problem that Shropshire faces is that it is failing to support young people. Our county now is almost at the bottom of the league table for youth in the social mobility rankings. We are ranked at position 292 out of the 324 English local authorities. That’s utterly dismal.

Young people living in poorer households are in our county failing to get access to further and higher education. Many of them are scared stiff by the lack of financial support and the loans needed to pay for their education. The paucity of higher education facilities in our county creates an environment where it is incredibly hard to inspire youngsters to go on to the future innovators and entrepreneurs.

It is shocking that just 1% of poorer young people in Shropshire go on to higher education.[3] Compare that to London, where the average for the age group is around 10%. Across England, the average is 5%. Hear clearly, we are so badly behind we are failing young people in our county.

It isn’t right that young people growing up in more disadvantaged backgrounds in Shropshire don’t get as many chances to improve their life chances as those as other areas. We must do more to support their interests. That will not only good for young people. It could also give a huge boost our local economy.

Social mobility ranking for ShropshireNotes

[1]. Reports on resignations: BBC, The Times, The Times, Guardian.

[2]. 2017 data. 2016 data. BBC interactive.

[3]. In this context, poverty is defined as children eligible for free school males. The latest data from the commission is for 2014/15.

What is the future for our county? The big plan debate. Ludlow, 30 November 2017

The Ludlow and Clee Local Joint Committee (LJC) is to hold a special meeting on 30 November to discuss Shropshire Council’s draft local plan. This sets out ambitious policies to expand housing and employment across the county.

Ludlow councillor Andy Boddington is chairman of the LJC, says:

“This opportunity to debate our ideas about the future of the county. Shropshire Council’s new plans aim for economic growth and building nearly 1,500 homes a year across the county. Much of this will be in the north and east of the county but we also need to work out what is best for the more rural areas, including Ludlow.”

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Ludlow still faces rates hikes despite lower bills after MP’s intervention and appeals

After effective negotiations and some successful appeals, the overall business rates bill for Ludlow has gone down. The town had been facing above average increases after the revaluation of properties last year. It is still facing above average increases but more than seventy businesses have had their rates bills reduced since the increases were announced.[1] One in nine Ludlow businesses will see a reduction in rateable value and the changes have moved three local businesses out of the business rate regime altogether. The reduction in rateable values for those businesses that pay rates under the current rules amounts to £120,000. That’s a 10.4% reduction and good news for local companies and traders.

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Shropshire Council plumps for highest housing growth option because it needs the cash

Next Wednesday, the council cabinet is expected to agree a much higher rate of growth in housing and employment land across the county. The government says we need to build 1,270 new homes a year. Shropshire Council wants to build 1,440 dwellings every year for the next 20 years.

Nearly 60% of people and organisations that responded to a consultation earlier this year wanted a lower level of growth. But the council wants the business rates from higher employment growth, so it says more housing is needed.

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New leader says Shropshire Council is not poor and county needs an airport

Copthorne councillor Peter Nutting, elected as leader of Conservative group on Shropshire Council last night, spoke to BBC Radio Shropshire about his forthcoming role as leader of the council.

He talked about the council becoming a “doing council” and of investment in the business parks in market towns. He wants better quality jobs and sees opportunities arising from HS2 and building a Shropshire airport. In a reference to previous leaders, he said he was not panicked about money, declaring that “Shropshire is not a poor council.”

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