Tag: democracy

Want to know where your Shropshire Councillor lives? Shush! It’s now an council secret

Out of the blue, Shropshire Council has decided that it will no longer publish councillors’ home addresses. Anyone wishing to send letters, will need to send them to Shirehall where the overstretched secretariat will redirect them to councillors. As far as a I can see, this was a decision taken in secret by an increasingly secret council. I certainly wasn’t consulted. Current rules would allow a resident in Oswestry to stand for a Shropshire Council seat in Ludlow. But now you are not now allowed to know where a councillor lives. This is just the latest step in the Conservatives erosion of democracy on Shropshire Council. They talk democratic language while undermining democracy at every step. Excepting where there is an identified risk to a councillor, the public have a right to know where their councillors live. Public figures should expect and accept that.

Covid Watch 103: Ludlow Town Council should not swing a wrecking ball at democracy

It is time for business as usual with councils but the government is not helping us. It has refused to extend emergency legislation that allows local councils to meet online rather in stuffy council chambers. That decision is being challenged in the high court but unless the action by councils wins, it creates a dilemma for those councils now forced to meet in person but have no space to do so. Ludlow Town Council is to meet tonight in a Zoom meeting. The council is being asked to agree to limit business at the next meeting and to transfer most decision-making to the town clerk under emergency powers. There is no longer any emergency. If the council allows emergency powers to be used in a non-emergency it will no longer be a democratic body. I hope councillors will vote against this wrecking ball to local democracy tonight.

Elections 2021: Ludlow Town Council nominations announced – I am disappointed by the lack of new faces

I confess I am disappointed. There are fifteen seats on Ludlow Town Council. But there are only two candidates for the 6 May election who don’t already sit on the council. One is me and I am elected unopposed to Gallows Bank Ward, the area I live in. That makes sense to me as I deal with a lot of local issues already. Another new face is Alan Tapley, who will standing in Bringewood Ward. This will be the only contested election on 6 May. Everyone else is elected unopposed. No one is standing for Clee View Ward. Those two seats will be co-opted, as will a vacant seat on Hayton Ward unless the town council decides to hold by-elections. I favour by-elections because councillors co-opting only appoint people in their own image and the co-optees rarely prove to be innovators. All councils need new faces and new ideas. Councils and councillors need to face a degree of challenge. Challenge focuses the mind and drives innovation rather than the same old thing drifting on. I am disappointed that more people have not put their name forward.

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.

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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