We are an open democracy but Shropshire Council thinks we are China or Russia

The Tories on Shropshire Council made a formal complaint against me because I told you that they were not telling you all that is happening with Ludlow Assembly Rooms. A press release was issued saying that £1.3m additional funding had been made available to complete the refurbishment. That was excellent news. But the sting in the tail was that the proposed transfer of LAR to Ludlow was to be cut from 125 years to three years. And by the way, Shropshire Council saw the £1.3m as a loan.

I knew full well I would get a code of conduct complaint for telling you that. It duly arrived. Other councillors were astounded that it had been filed by as many as three cabinet members. Leader Peter Nutting. His deputy Steve Charmley. And the lead for culture and waste Lezley Picton.

I have now responded and I am not giving any ground whatsoever. I acted in the public interest. We are not China or Russia.

My response to the code of conduct complaint

The strength of democracy lies in honest debate and critical challenge. It is founded on open and honest publication and discussion of the issues of the day.

On 19 December 2019, Shropshire Council issued a press release which said that an extra £1.3m would put into the Ludlow Assembly Rooms refurbishment. It said: “Following the completion of the work Shropshire Council has agreed to transfer the building as a Community Asset Transfer (CAT) to the Ludlow Assembly Rooms.”

Steve Charmley, the deputy of the council, made no mention of the intention to reduce the CAT to three years. Or the intention to negotiate full or part repayment of the £1.3m. The press release was a lie by omission of vital facts.

I have made a commitment to be an open and communicative councillor. I tell it as it is from my perspective. I saw my role as publishing the information on LAR as a part of my duties as a councillor. The public were not being told the entire truth. They weren’t being made aware of the sting in the tail of £1.3m funding or reducing the CAT from 125 years to just three.

I did not publish the confidential paper but I accept that I published the essence of the recommendations that are most damaging to Ludlow. It is my job, along with my follow councillors, to defend Ludlow to the hilt.

I was fully aware that a code of conduct complaint could be submitted by the dominant political powers in Shirehall. That to my mind was a risk worth taking.

I acted in the public interest. Both Shropshire Council’s code of conduct and legislation allow a public interest defence on release of information marked confidential. The financial data I published was already in the public domain.

I was given the option of proceeding with this complaint or withdrawing my blog post. This is 2020. Withdrawing a blog post does not delete it from the public record. My blog is threaded into social media and mainstream media networks. It has had 25k views so far this year. The county’s media pick up anything I publish within minutes. Sometimes they use the material but whether they do or not is their business not mine.

I would not withdraw the blog post on principle. What is said is said. We are not a totalitarian state. We have a right to speak out. Freedom of speech is central to our democracy.

I don’t mind in the least if people challenge me. Nutting, Charmley and Picton could have challenged by commenting on my blog post. They could have written an article and I would have published that. They could have used the conventional media. Peter Nutting did say I was talking “tosh” to BBC Radio Shropshire but that was the limit of the response. The political leaders prefer to exercise their power behind the scenes.

I accept I will get disciplined by the council on this. It is worth that to promote the cause of democracy and the openness that must underpin our democratic future. I will accept any punishment dealt out. And I will go back to the electorate to ask whether they support Shropshire Council taking on procedures that China and Russia would be proud of.

I have a right to speak in the best interests of my ward constituents and for Ludlow as a whole. I have exercised that right. I am proud to have done so.

This response will be published on my blog as soon as I send it [legal officer]. Openness. Transparency. Nothing hidden on confidential papers. We spend public money. We should be 100% publicly accountable. I will defend that until the electorate of Ludlow North no longer wish me to defend them and our town.

9 thoughts on “We are an open democracy but Shropshire Council thinks we are China or Russia

  1. We should all at and up and support you Andy. You are our Ludlow eyes and ears at the dark corridors of SC.
    If you need support I am sure we will all rally round.
    Keep up the good work.
    Is there an address where we can send comments to Nutting about this .

  2. We appreciate all that you do to represent us, it can’t be an easy job when decisions are made in corridors. Transparency is so important, thank you for standing up for us and Ludlow Assembly Rooms.

  3. Thank you for continuing to defend the people of Shropshire from their elected representatives! I wonder whether the abrupt departure of our Chief Executive was as a result of his giving advice his leaders did not like e.g. “this Boddington chap has a sound public interest defence and I advise you to let it go”. He will obviously have signed a NDA and i wonder how much that has cost the council tax payers.

  4. Dear Andy,
    As a Ludlow resident I wish to express appreciation of your regular Blogs reporting on what is going on in our Ludlow Council as well as Shropshire Council. I am not a real political person but find your detailed, transparent, regular reporting on decisions being made about our communities so helpful to follow. I am so sorry to hear of the challenges you are facing which I hope can be sorted out reasonably. I very much hope you can and will be able to continue to keep us infomed so ably and relevently. I strongy agree with your comments about the need for transparency in our democracy.
    With all good wishes,

  5. Dear Andy,
    Support you up to the hilt. Your blog keeps me and thousands of others aware of what is going on. Look at this latest latest tree felling scandal at Foldgate. How would I ever know if it weren’t for you ? Please continue with your excellent and informative blog and know that we all stand behind you 100%.
    Wanda Hardman

  6. The whole County, not just Ludlow supports you in exercising this very important principle of democracy.

  7. As I drove up the A49 at the weekend, I realised I could see the side of the retirement home at the top of Foldgate Lane, and my first thought was, ‘I must visit Andy Boddington’s blog, because he will know about this, and I can learn what’s happened from him’. And I was dead right – it’s not just what les diaboliques are up to, it’s your keenness for all things local that makes you a jewel. I’m not a Lib Dem supporter, but I am very much an Andy Boddington supporter. Keep up the great work.

  8. Have I got this correct? They give money for the building.Nice. However in the ‘small print’ the use of the building for community use goes from 125 years to 3? After those 3 years of free? use by the community it then becomes council property where who ever is then using the building gets charged and then it is no longer a community building ? You do right by informing people of underhand moves.

Comments are closed.

Back to top