Month: March 2021

Shropshire Council to use council meeting to smooth over highways problems ahead of 6 May local elections

Despite the clear restrictions on what council business can be conducted in the run up to an election, Shropshire Council’s administration has scheduled a meeting on its contractors’ performance on highways maintenance next Tuesday. It seems that the council is not aware that highways are a political issue and a battleground in many council areas around the county. Among the reports to be considered by the Place Overview Committee next Tuesday is one on the struggling highways contractor Kier, the company responsible for delivering highways repairs at a cost of £27m a year. The report admits to three years of failings but makes the case improvements are being made. This is a smoothie view of highways. If only our highways were smooth.

Covid Watch 140: Ludlow town buses back to normal from Thursday 1 April when vax shuttle ends

Bus services have been disrupted in recent weeks to give priority to the shuttle bus between Ludlow and the Racecourse vaccination centre. From Thursday, the 701 and 722 will revert to their previous timetables, with each running every half an hour from Ludlow Assembly Rooms. The vaccination programme at Ludlow Racecourse is due to slow due to a reduction in vaccine supplies in April. The vax shuttle will be suspended. It might be reinstated later but it has been little used. It was the right idea but there was little demand. I am not convinced it should be reinstated at the expense of the town service.

The decision for Shropshire to become a unitary council from May 2009 is still resented here in south west Shropshire. Under Shropshire Council’s first leader, it led to a huge centralisation of control in Shropshire and the sucking of rural resources into Shrewsbury and Oswestry. It was not going unitary that was the problem. It was the transfer of power from rural Shropshire to Shrewsbury. That was never a requirement of going unitary. We can’t go back the local governance arrangements we had before 2009. But we can strengthen local democracy across the county by setting up powerful area committees with powers over local decisions, local funding and the right to scrutinise and challenge Shirehall. The committees will help level up funding between urban and rural Shropshire. It is time for the rural voice to be as loud as the urban voice. Across the nation and here in Shropshire.

Escape to the country programmes and articles by urban journalists don’t give a real view of rural life

Am I the only one who find programmes like Escape to the Country unsettling? The clue is in the word “escape”. That idea of rural life being idyllic compared to the nightmare of living in cities. Before anyone gets worked up, I don’t think cities are a nightmare. A buzz of life 24 hours seven days a week. Almost everything available whenever you need it. Walkable neighbourhoods. But cities and large towns are too busy for me. All those people you don’t know rushing past not saying hello. I don’t think rural areas are a nightmare. Far from it. But people seem who escape to the country sometimes have unrealistic expectations of rural life.

Local councils have been meeting online during the pandemic. After a few teething problems, the practice of meeting online has worked well. But yesterday the government declared councils must meet in public after 7 May. Many councillors think this is too early. A good many councils, including Ludlow Town Council and Shropshire Council, do not have suitable buildings to accommodate all their councillors, let alone members of the public, while social distancing remains in place. Will any councillors or members of the public want to attend the cramped Ludlow Town Council meeting in the Guildhall on 24 May? Or the Shropshire Council meeting four days earlier, with its 74 councillors and at least 25 officers and public attending in a chamber set out like a university lecture hall? This is retrograde move that will reduce the effectiveness of local democracy. Not for once, ministers are out of touch with reality. The compulsory return to face to face for councils is only happening because local government has long been an afterthought in the government’s deliberations (and, for that matter, allocation of funding). Parliament has run out of time to debate the required legislation that would extend powers for online meetings. Faced…

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