Elections can be thrilling, exhausting and disappointing all at once. That was certainly the case in the Shropshire Council elections last Thursday.
Council leader Peter Nutting, the man who put Shrewsbury first in everything, was thrown off Shropshire Council and Shrewsbury Town Council. The Conservatives gained 11% more seats across England with the Boris Bounce but in Shropshire they lost 12% of their seats.
For the first time, the Green Party showed strength across the county, taking four seats. Labour gained one seat and the Lib Dems two.
There could not be a clearer message. Whatever is happening elsewhere in the country, the Shropshire Tories are unpopular in this county and they are failing our county.
The now former council leader Peter Nutting was summarily dismissed by the Lib Dems. This wasn’t a close call. Rob Wilson won by more than 500 votes. Wilson also defeated Nutting in the Shrewsbury Town Council. Labour remains the biggest group on the town council with seven members. The Liberal Democrats are now in second place with six seats. The Conservatives and Greens have two members each.
Julia Buckley is the first Labour councillor in Bridgnorth, a town that has not been well served by its Conservative councillors. And the unpopular Conservative Simon Harris was defeated by Labour in Broseley.
The Greens went from one seat to four. An impressive performance and in the wards they targeted, they performed strongly. Unfortunately, neither Greens nor the Lib Dems were elected in the chalk and cheese ward of Church Stretton and Craven Arms. Their combined vote was 2,915. The two Tories who won had a combined vote of 2,538. There is a lesson for green leaning parties there. The Greens won 12 of 18 seats on Oswestry Town Council.
The Lib Dems nearly toppled the deputy leader Steve Charmley, who despite his confidence before the vote scraped in by just 34 votes.
The Conservatives gained 43 seats, 11 fewer than in 2009. That weakens their authority but is five more than the 38 seats they need to form the next administration. Shropshire Conservatives have lost their sense of judgement. That is why they have performed so badly when across the country other Conservatives were enjoying the Boris Bounce?
Steve Charmley now wants to be the new council leader. Applauding Peter Nutting on BBC Radio Shropshire this morning, Charmley has backed every disastrous decision Shropshire Council has made since it was created in 2009. The list is too long for this article but he supported setting up the council company ip&e, which failed with unknown losses. He has backed plans to refurbish Shirehall and the subsequent plans to demolish it. He was enthusiastic about buying the now near worthless shopping centres in Shrewsbury, losing council tax papers around £50 million so far. He has shown no interest in green or community issues. He closed Ludlow’s recycling centre. And he wants to be leader? Do the Conservatives want more of the same stuff that has served them and the county so badly?
Despite the near miss in Whittington, the Lib Dems have done well. We are up by two seats, one of them being the stunning victory by 20-year old Alex Wagner in Bowbrook, Shrewsbury. The Conservatives vote in Bowbrook fell from 688 to 322 votes and Alex romped home with 1,001 votes. He said:
“This was a victory due to traditional, pavement-pounding, liberal community politics. We worked hard, listened to local people and I’m so proud to be their voice now. The Conservative record on waste is appalling and they’ve made such a bodge of running the show that hundreds – 1,001 in Bowbrook – want real change!”
Also in Shrewsbury, another young newcomer, Mary Davis retained Abbey and Bernie Bentick took Meole for the Lib Dems.
There were, as in all elections, some near misses. The Lib Dems lost to the Conservatives in Bagley (by 18 votes), Ruyton and Baschurch (90 votes), The Meres (23 votes) and Whittington (34 votes). Labour lost Harlescott to the Conservatives by 23 votes.
Majorities ranged from 18 to 938. The five largest majorities are: Gwilym Butler, Conservative, Cleobury Mortimer (938); Ed Potter, Conservative, Loton (933); Ruth Houghton, Liberal Democrats, Bishop’s Castle (889); Heather Kidd, Liberal Democrats, Chirbury and Worthen (863); and Nick Hignet, Conservative, Rea Valley (777).