The draft Shropshire Plan lacks targets amid platitudes and back slapping

The draft Shropshire Plan lacks targets amid platitudes and back slapping

Shropshire Council has had several stabs at a corporate plan in recent years. I can’t recall any of the plans having any impact on the way its political leadership acts. I have encountered a lot of corporate plans them in my life. I even drafted a few. But they only work if they if they provide clear guidance, parameters and targets to keep an organisation on course.

The draft Shropshire Plan, which is a corporate plan in all but name, doesn’t achieve that. There are no targets for housing, the economy, welfare or climate change. Instead, there are promises and platitudes. We will achieve this and that it says. There is back slapping. We have achieved this and that.

As a philosophical statement, it’s pretty much okay. But as a corporate plan, a guide to the way the council will work it fails. There are no benchmarks against which the public or councillors can judge success or failure.

The draft Shropshire Plan 2022-25 was published by Shropshire Council a few weeks back. It is open for consultation until 28 February.

There is no mention of the North West Relief Road (NWRR). Abandoned? No way. This is a motherhood and apple pie promotion on behalf of the council and it doesn’t mention either the environmentally destructive NWRR or the financial sinkhole of the Shrewsbury shopping centres. These two out of date schemes will constrain the council’s ability to get on with other projects. The Shropshire Plan doesn’t mention Shirehall. Without the sale of that building it won’t be possible to advance any of the council’s capital plans in the Shrewsbury area, let alone the rest of the county.

These are perhaps only details in a broader vision. But the elephant in the room is the council finances. If it can’t balance the books, all ambitions will have to be scrapped. The council is already building up a running deficit of around £50 million a year. That was smoothed over during the pandemic during which the government pumped in funds to pay for staff reassigned from their usual roles. But the underlying structural financial deficit remains.

How can the council produce a report about the future of the most rural counties in the country without putting rurality at its heart? The “rural” word is mentioned just three times. Once in a link to an external document. Twice in a self-congratulatory fashion, including for EU LEADER funding which was managed by the AONB.

The Shropshire Plan has five pages of ambitions and eight pages on “our achievements”. It is more gloss that substance. The council might argue that its targets are in other documents. But if we are to have a Shropshire Plan, the targets should be on the face the plan.

The consultation will now run to 28 February.

The deadline has been extended after I objected to the plan not being presented in an accessible format. The first version was only available in an online document where much of the content required clicking to trigger drop down boxes. It could not be printed, saved or accessed with a screen reader. The council has now produced a more accessible version of the plan (though I haven’t yet been able to test that it is screen readable). It has given a commitment to ensure that all future consultation documents will be accessible.

2 thoughts on “The draft Shropshire Plan lacks targets amid platitudes and back slapping

  1. Why doesn’t the plan mention the NWRR? Is it because you know it will be black hole for money that you can I’ll afford to spend? Where is the focus on saving us from the Climate and Ecological Emergency? On helping us reduce our bills? It seems to me that there is a lot of unjustified self-congratulation without setting any proper targets by which future success (or failure) can be measured. It’s poor.

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