Year: 2015

Vote now: Should Shropshire Council raise council tax by nearly 4% next April?

Today’s council cabinet was chaired by the new leader, Malcolm Pate for the first time. One of the most important items it considered is whether to raise council tax. For years council tax in Shropshire has been frozen while central government funding has been harshly cut back. Now the writing is truly on the wall. In 2016/17, the council faces a funding gap of £18m (PDF). The accumulated funding gap over the next five years is projected to be £60m. That means eye-watering cuts to even the most essential of services. The question is whether the council should ease the scale of cutbacks by raising local taxes. Today’s cabinet meeting agreed:

If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funny. A press release from the Police and Crime Commissioner tells of how the Community Ambassador for Shropshire was astonished at the level of speeding in Ludlow. Graham Oliver was here to witness the first day of Ludlow police’s Christmas speed and drink-driving enforcement campaign. Seven vehicles on Sheet Road were pulled over in just a few minutes for speeding. I live near Sheet Road and I can tell you, Mr Oliver, that speeding not just frequent there, its normal. The default mode of driving on some roads here is to speed.

It has not been a good few weeks for Shropshire Council with the sudden resignation of its leader, Keith Barrow. Everyone has been asking: “Where will the council go from here?” Now we know one part of that. Councillor Malcolm Pate, the representative for Albrighton, is to lead the unitary council at its most difficult time since it was created from five district councils in 2009. The new leader was elected tonight by the Conservative group in private session. Deputy leader Steve Charmley had publicly thrown his hat into the ring. Many thought he would get the leadership. But as BBC Radio Shropshire reports on Facebook tonight, Malcolm Pate was elected subject to the ratification of full council. A former leader of Shropshire County Council, Malcolm brings experience and stability to the council at a time at a time when it needs just that. He could and should change the way this council is run.

The Barrow Era (5): The curious case of a ransom strip in Morda

This blog was meant to follow Barrow Affair (3) but was held back by the news yesterday of Keith Barrow’s immediate resignation from Shropshire Council. The Dutton Report made extensive reference to an Oswestry based company called Peakfast. Several people have since asked me: “What is Peakfast?” This blog outlines why Peakfast was featured in the Dutton Report and at an earlier standards hearing. I should begin by saying that Keith Barrow has strenuously denied any impropriety in relation to Peakfast. The purpose of this post is only to explain why Peakfast has featured in complaints to the council since 2010.

The Barrow Era (4): Keith Barrow resigns as council leader and councillor

It had to happen and I am glad that it has happened sooner rather than later. Keith Barrow has resigned as council leader following years of concern about conflicts of interest over his business affairs. Complaints have been made and upheld through the council’s standards procedure. More have been submitted in the last few days. At least one complaint has been sent to West Mercia police for investigation (update: the complaint was dismissed by the police). There has also been growing dissatisfaction over Keith Barrow’s leadership style, which has concentrated power with himself and a few lieutenants. Now he has resigned to spend more time with his family.

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