How to be cruel in one effective blow – fining the poor for being poor is Shropshire Council’s latest proposal (updated)

That’s what Shropshire Council is planning to do. Unable to balance its budget, and that is the fault of the government as well as this Conservative led council, it plans to tax some of the poorest people in our county. Yesterday, 14 December, the council votes in favour of making some of the poorest and most vulnerable in Shropshire pay 20% of their council tax bill. One member argued: “It is only fair that everyone shares the burden.” I disagreed saying: “It is not fair that the poor share the burden.”

Surely our job as a council is to protect vulnerable people, not tax them?

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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.

Vital campaign to save Ludlow Foyer launches on #StartsAtHome Day

Today is a national day of action. #StartsAtHome aims to highlight the importance of supported social housing, including projects like the Ludlow Foyer. Young people have been out in the Market Square today, explaining how the Foyer is helping them get from a crisis into work, education and training. They are telling people that funding for the Foyer is under threat from national and local budget cuts. There is every danger that, despite its groundbreaking work, the Foyer will close in 2018.

Closing Ludlow Foyer would be crazy. It would mean that young people would end up on the streets and would not get the help they need to get a good start in adult life.

Please sign the petition urging Shropshire Council to protect funding for the Foyer.

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Look at this photograph of a great pub in Ludlow – Do you see what I saw?

I was walking back from a council meeting in the Guildhall. As always I was taking snapshots to build up my picture library.

The Rose and Crown reopens on 18 July at 11am. It will be run by Gary and Carlos. I am convinced it will be great pub. The hanging sign is up. This evening I took a photo for a future blog post. I have every intention of being the first in the queue when the pub reopens – though council duties may sadly get in the way.

But back to the photograph. Here it is. Do you see what I saw when I tapped the shutter button on my mobile phone?

rose_crown_signage_homeless

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Resilient Ludlow: We are embarking on an ambitious new project for young people next week

The countdown is on.

From April Fool’s Day 2017, Shropshire Council is predicting that it will no longer be able to fund youth services in the county. Even if it can find money, it will not be enough to fund youth support at the level we are used to or that we need.

The future of Ludlow Youth Centre remains uncertain. We want it to be transferred to community ownership to keep it safe for future generations. But we worry that Shropshire Council is planning to move yet move staff into the building, making it more of an office and less of a youth hub. We need the squatters out so that it can become a dedicated youth centre again.

Money and bricks and mortar are not the only issues we face.

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