It can be so frustrating working with Shropshire Council. Next Wednesday, a scrutiny committee will consider the one year review of the controversial parking strategy introduced in November 2018. This led to a huge hike in on-street hourly rates in the town centre and restrictions on residents permits. That cut town centre trade at a challenging times for all town centres. But although that meeting is only two working days away, the council has yet to publish any paperwork. How are we expected to consider and react to a major policy paper that could have a huge impact on the economy of Ludlow if we can’t see what the council is proposing until the last moment?
I have complained to officers about the lack of paperwork for Wednesday’s meeting of the Performance Management Scrutiny Committee. Highways officers are very stretched after £10m was lopped off the roads budget to pay for adult social care. But we have known this review was coming for a long while. I insisted on it at a cabinet meeting when the council’s policy was just for a six month review. With the seasonal cycle for business in Ludlow the proposed six month review would not show the full impact of the changes. I was supported by the council leader, Peter Nutting, and transport portfolio holder, Steve Davenport.
That review was due in November. But at that point a general election was underway. I successfully petitioned for the review to be delayed because parking has always been a political debate. It would be weaponised if the review went against Ludlow in the middle of a general election. Purdah rules had to take priority.
The two month delay to January means there is no excuse for not having the paperwork for a meeting that is only two working days away. It should have been ready in Novemeber. Publishing papers at the last moment has become a culture in the council.
Will parking charges be reduced? Will the council reinstate pop and shop? Will it be more flexible about on-street parking permit for residents? I haven’t a clue because Shropshire Council is not going to tell us until Monday at the earliest, possibly Tuesday, possibly in a tabled paper on Wednesday.
This is a disgrace. But it is becoming normal for council papers be delayed. The democratic operation of a council elected by the people of Shropshire is often put on the backburner as officers struggle with their workload. I understand the pressures officers face. But a council is a council of the people. The elected representatives are there to voice the views of the people.
We can’t do that if vital paperwork is published at the very last minute. Shropshire Council spends too much time facing itself and getting lost in its internal struggles. It is time for the council to turn around and face the public.