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Broken Shirehall: Budget blackhole, Chief gets pay rise of nearly 50% & money wasted on white elephants
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New Administration – Will it stand test of time?

The awful set of election results for the Conservatives on May 6th shook up Shirehall. They lost 5 seats, including that of their Leader and narrowly escaped losing 6 more by the smallest of margins. This includes Whittington Division where the Deputy Leader, Steve Charmley, clung on by 34 votes to beat me. All prompting a new administration

A new Leader was approved by the first full council meeting last week. Steve Charmley, lost out in the Leadership contest but remains as Deputy Leader. The new Leader is Lezley Picton the Conservative member for Tern.

The main news was the election drubbing had prompted the Conservative’s new Administration to ‘pause and reflect’ on their most recent controversial positions. Namely, sinking more money into Shrewsbury Shopping Centres, imposing houses all over the area in the Local Plan, demolishing Shirehall and building the North West Relief Road. Whether such a pause and reflection results in any change is up for debate. The public has shaken up Shirehall and demanded change. They would be foolish to ignore that. I certainly won’t let them ignore it.

Conservative Cabinet

Lezley PictonTernLeader and improvement
Steve CharmleyWhittingtonPhysical infrastructure, highways and built housing
Gwilym ButlerCleobury MortimerResources
Dean CarrollBattlefieldAdult social care, public health and assets, including population, health and integration
Rob GittinsCheswardineDigital, technology, data and insight
Kirstie Hurst-KnightBridgnorth East and Astley AbbottsChildren and education
Cecilia MotleyCorvedaleCommunities, place, tourism and transport
Ian NellinsMarket Drayton WestClimate change, natural assets and the green economy
Edward PotterLotonEconomic growth, regeneration and planning

New portfolio for Steve

With Steve taking over infrastructure and highways there can be no more excuses for ignoring the growing problems across our area. There are more problems than you can shake a stick at. During the election the Conservatives pledged to spent £40m fixing the roads. A pledge of money that wasn’t in their own budget. If it happens the obvious question you might ask is: “how they will fund their pledge?” It will either have to come out of capital or by cutting another service. Quite possibly it is a pledge for the birds. The Government has already cut their own promise of more money for highways.

With regard to the local plan I hope a pause leads to a reduction in housing numbers to more sustainable levels. That will mean some communities being dropped. In West Felton I would hope that means the village remains as open countryside as residents wanted. I will continue to fight for more affordable housing based on actual local need and against inappropriate development. The current draft is unsustainable allocating many sites without the infrastructure to support them.

Infrastructure is also under Steve’s remit so I hope he will now answer my question to cabinet, for which i still haven’t had a reply. He needs to commit to keeping CIL Local in the communities that earned them and not divert money into the NWRR or other Shrewsbury projects.

4% Pay rise

The full council also voted to give themselves a 4% payrise. That isn’t something i would have supported if I had won instead of Steve. In the current climate of people losing their jobs and having their pay cut, this rise just isn’t appropriate. Now Councillors are getting paid more to do a job people rightly expect to see increased work from members. The Lib Dem County Group issued the following press release about the payrise:

Heads should roll in the Cabinet if services don’t improve.

Shropshire Council Cabinet members must now take the rap for poor services in Shropshire. We can no longer allow our portfolio holders to take money for nothing. Four years and £46,000 later our highways services are no better and in some ways much worse. Under that watch, we also saw £1,000 spent a day on a consultant. Shropshire residents money is paid to all those in the Cabinet to do a job for us. The buck stops with them.

What should we Council tax payers expect?

Roger Evans, Leader of the Opposition (Liberal Democrat) group said “ Efficient delivery of our services is a starting point for the extra pay. The Highways portfolio holder in the last Council was paid good money to deliver pothole after pothole, many causing expensive damage to cars with few being able to claim against the Council. Poor drainage, flooding and wasteful tarmac shoved in potholes full of water. This new portfolio holder will now be earning £18,000 to do this. We will expect good roads, reduced blocked drains and flooding and Kier working efficiently.”

I will be really interested to see where the trumpeted ‘new’ £40 million for Highways will be found from and the Liberal Democrats will be watching to make sure its spent well – if it materialises!.”

The Planning Chairs have had a rise to a £18,000 total. The least we should expect is consistent and balanced decisions alongside Planning Policy delivering for local people, local needs energy efficient housing being the requirement for the people who live here,(the extra allowance for planning Policy is £12,000). We need more affordable and smaller housing so that our teachers, carers, police, nurses and all our essential workers can afford to live here, in the areas they work”. Added deputy leader, Cllr Heather Kidd.

 Heather continued “ All the Scrutiny Chairs should be working for their £12,000 and improving decisions made by the Administration. They must now deliver for us all and not just for certain towns, and certain groups of people. We all deserve better. This administration really must not be more of the same diminishing returns for us all”.