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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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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Our fear is that Ludlow independent shops will fold, says my letter in today’s Times

The Times has run a series of articles highlighting the harm that rises in rateable values and business rates will cause rural businesses. Yesterday, the newspaper had a first page headline: “Punitive business rates threaten rural way of life.” I am sure there were a lot of responses and four of us were lucky enough to have our letters published in today’s edition.

My letter, as you might expect, concentrated on the impact on business rates hikes in Ludlow. I said “Our fear is that these independent shops will fold and will be replaced by the chain retailers”:

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