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.

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Measures to support schools, reduce energy use and calm traffic rejected by Shropshire Council 

A full council meeting took place today. The biggest item on the agenda was the council’s financial strategy through to 2020. An attempt by Lib Dem councillors to deliver more support for schools, reduce the energy used by streetlights and provide more funds for traffic calming was rejected by the Conservative majority.

I am sorry that this amendment to council’s financial strategy did not go through. It would have helped schoolchildren, communities and the environment.

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Shropshire and Ludlow are lagging on higher education – 200 young people a year miss out

I see in the Ludlow Advertiser Philip Dunne is welcoming the increase in young people applying to go university. He fails to mention that his own constituency is performing worse than much of England. Ludlow used to be ahead of the game but is now trailing behind.

The data released by UCAS earlier this month are really quite shocking. All of Shropshire is falling behind the rest of England in university admissions. We would have more than 200 extra students applying to go to university every year if we achieved the national average.

Ludlow slides down higher education league tables

When Philip Dunne was elected as our MP ten years ago, just 181 of the 533 constituencies in England had a higher rate of university applications than Ludlow. In 2016, 301 constituencies do better than Ludlow. That’s not a good track record.

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Ludlow Teme education centre proposed by Severn Rivers Trust – it looks a great idea

There’s a plan to build a new education centre on the Teme at Dinham. It’s really exciting.

When I first heard of these plans, I wasn’t certain how this scheme would work. We don’t have much space available at Dinham and, instinctively, it is not a place to be putting up more buildings. After meeting Mike Morris, deputy director of the Severn Rivers Trust on site last week, I am thrilled by the idea. This could be a new tourist attraction as well as an education centre.

The idea is to build an education centre on the west bank of the Teme near Dinham weir. This site is currently an unmanaged field. It has a degree of biodiversity but is otherwise rough vegetation.

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Ludlow library is to be reviewed – I think the right plan for its future is absolutely obvious

Very shortly, Shropshire Council will launch a review of the six hub libraries – Shrewsbury, Oswestry, Whitchurch, Market Drayton, Bridgnorth and Ludlow. I’ll write more about the review when I know more. But I do have a firm view on what the result of any review should be.

We know we will have to work hard to sort out a future for the hub libraries in a time of local government austerity. But I don’t think it helps that we set to spend time looking at transferring these libraries to communities or local councils. The six hub libraries provide an integrated service that can’t easily be split up. I cannot see how we can retain that with more than one hub provider, not without creating a lot of bureaucracy to oversee any future arrangement.

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