#83: (Based on) County Councillor’s Report to Highley Parish Council

Following on from Shropshire Council CEO Andy Begley’s last regular email to all staff, in which he rallies his troops by repeating what has become Shropshire Council’s most fundamental approach to governance (the main tenet of which Brian Williams quotes in his email below: ”A new partnership between councillors and officers”), the overall reaction from elected Members across the political divides has been one of disbelief that our CEO actually believes what he’s saying because, given our own experiences in the real world, it is difficult to see where he’s coming from.

The significance of Brian Williams’ email (circulated to all Members) is in his normally being one of (if not THE) staunchest supporter of whatever comes out of the ruling group’s collective mouth, any voiced criticism of a Cabinet decision usually put down by Brian Williams in the most patronising way, so to see this coming from his pen is indeed singularly significant. And if that were not earth shattering enough, he signs it as the Vice-Chair of the council.

From: Brian Williams <brian.williams@shropshire.gov.uk>
Sent: 24 June 2021 15:49
To: Andy.Begley@public.govdelivery.com
Cc: Members <Members@shropshire.gov.uk>
Subject: RE: Message from Council Leader and Chief Executive

I welcome the Chief Executive’s statement yesterday of ”A new partnership between councillors and officers”. In keeping with that ambition I trust that the Chief Exec will remind all officers, of whatever seniority, that there is a Council protocol which states that all e-mails (whether from members or the public) should be acknowledged within two working days and responded to within five working days, even if the e-mail at that time is simply to acknowledge that a full response is taking longer to prepare.

In the same spirit of cooperation it would be helpful if members making telephone calls to officers, if those are not immediately answered, could receive a call back within 24 hours, always assuming that the officer is not ill or on leave.

Brian Williams

Vice Chairman of the Council.

Chairman of the Audit Committee.

As of today, Wednesday 30 June, there has been no official response from Andy Begley to Brian Williams’ email, which is hardly surprising given his response to my email (of a few weeks back) asking him to start including elected Members in his thinking about the restructuring of council governance, when his reply consisted of: “Your comments have been noted”. Hmmm.

He consistently repeats his belief that Shropshire Council is a “member led organisation” despite knowing damn well that it is anything but and, moreover, anything but because of the change in culture that he and his fellow service directors are quietly slipping in whilst insisting that nothing is changing, just ‘improving’.

What Andy Begley insists is happening simply isn’t happening, at least not in the way he insists, and hasn’t been happening that way since well before Covid came along with its “Covid opportunities”, every one of which has been eagerly grasped as justification for cuts in council in-house services, the impact of which has been felt by every town and parish council clerk in the county, let alone every elected Member and the people whose interests they’re elected to represent.

The irony in all that is happening – the removal of effective avenues of representation – is that this would have happened years ago had Keith Barrow remained as Council Leader and carried his vision for ‘ip&e’ (the council-owned trading company) through to fruition, and yet – when they eventually came out of the woodwork – it was the ‘privatisation’ aspect of ‘ip&e’ that had so concerned his critics.

He was also putting Shirehall on the market and “moving council closer to local communities by moving its operations out to the market towns”, but as was pointed out in a 2016 police report following his standing down as Leader (and resignation as a councillor following my Code of Conduct Complaint against him), the effect of his policies was not only to move council operations away from Shirehall but, crucially, scrutiny, which is exactly what’s happening with Andy Begley’s promulgation of his and his fellow service director’s policy of making the council more of a business and council employees more accountable to service directors instead of the people who actually pay their salaries – the taxpayers of Shropshire. Recent events involving my exchanges with highways highlight this trend!

Planning is following the same trend, although in planning’s case it’s no longer so much a ‘trend’ because it’s reached the point of cementing evolved practices into place, thanks in large part to changes in government policy that have swung the emphasis away from protecting communities from excessive development towards persuading them to accept over-development which they didn’t know they needed. When that still didn’t meet government targets for house building then “persuasion” swiftly changed to compulsion, the clear indication of which we saw in the recent circular selling us the idea of ‘Right Home, Right Place’ (RHRP), the central theme of which was hidden amongst the ‘need’ for more ‘affordable’ housing.

It’s worth looking closely at the spiel put out by the RHRP teams. It’s one of the cleverest con tricks I have ever seen in my decades of involvement with Local Authority Planning departments, not as a developer but as someone trying to earn an honest living in a specialised area of the construction industry – the joinery involved in Conservation and Listed Buildings – whilst navigating a way through national policies that seemed to change annually, a process rendered almost impenetrable by the inconsistent interpretation of national policy by individual planning officers. It’s why I retired three years earlier than I’d intended; at the time my actual words were: “I really don’t need this shit”.

But at least the killer stroke is out there with this RHRP scheme; loud and proud there’s nothing hidden because what would earlier have been a hidden agenda is now blatantly front and centre. “We will screw you so you might as well at least pretend you’re enjoying it.”

There is the threat…

‘A small number of parishes believe that by not taking part – and encouraging residents not to take part either – they will protect their area from housing development. However, that isn’t the case. If the survey reveals a clear housing need, and a parish doesn’t wish to get involved, they may be in a position where the housing is built anyway, but without their input.’

Then the come on…

‘The most successful housing schemes across Shropshire are those in which the parish council takes an active interest and involvement, and understands that by taking part, they will have a far greater influence over the type of housing created and how it fits into their community.’

Those of us who enthusiastically took part in the “consultation” process for the preferred site adjoining TC Homes’ current 20 affordable home development, only to see our “local opinion” completely ignored, know how criminally misleading the whole “consultation” process is. Up to that point, I was a keen advocate of closer involvement in the planning process, it’s why having that enthusiasm kicked out of me by an arrogant little planner came as so much of a shock!

And this simply adds insult to injury…

‘Shropshire Council’s Affordable Housing Team will provide guidance and support throughout this process, and once a Registered Provider has been selected and confirmed, representatives from the chosen Registered Provider will join the steering group and the group explores potential sites and selects the most suitable location. The RP then take on all the risk – so there’s no financial risk to the parish council.’

‘The chosen Registered Provider will then secure the land and handle the negotiations, while the steering group consider what they’d like their affordable homes to look like, and who may be living in them based on local need – subject to the advice of the Council’s Planning Department.’

And the coup de grace? It’s what the recent housing survey was all about. It was not and never intended to be a partnership thing with mutual benefits, a coming together of minds.

What you’re about to read isn’t new, it’s what’s been happening for years, and here in Highley is what happened with the ‘preferred site’ on which TC Homes is building. Despite all the environmental protections in place on the site, all of which were dismissed with the stroke of a pen from the man who had, ironically, put them there in the first place, that plot of land became a Standard Exception Site on which to build 20 “affordable” houses despite Highley Parish Council’s objections, based on local knowledge and supported by reservations over the safety of the site access expressed in earlier planning officer reports going back well over ten years. What follows applies to the TC Homes development, every word!

‘The second option for parishes is a Standard Exception Site Scheme. In this instance, a Registered Provider will find and acquire a plot of land based on evidence of need. While the parish council may have some input into the planning application, they wouldn’t have any further say once development begins.

‘The Registered Provider will handle everything from site selection to planning permission to build. Registered Providers usually have a standard model for the type, size and aesthetics of their properties, so it’s likely that this model would be applied to any new affordable homes built within a parish.

‘The benefits of choosing a Standard Exception Site Scheme over a Community-Led Scheme are that the parish council won’t have to do any work, and Standard Schemes tend to be completed more quickly than Community-Led Schemes because while they meet the needs identified in a parish’s Housing Survey, they don’t need to take into consideration the Parish Council’s preferences around site location and building design.’

Now consider the implications of the recent RHRP housing survey again. If a watchword is needed it’s probably: “Proceed with extreme caution tempered with cynicism”. Mind you, that’s always applied to dealings with a planning department anyway.

As I said throughout the “consultation” process on the current TC Homes development, whilst those 20 affordable homes might well be the “Right Homes”, they are in the “Wrong Place”.

Dave Tremellen

30 June 2021

#82: Proving that it’s a lot easier to miss the point than address the real issues.


Steve Charmley warning councillors against taking action in a way that doesn’t acknowledge “that things are different now”. They’re certainly different from the (ordinary) elected Member’s position; harder to get things done and virtually impossible to penetrate when things go wrong. In fact you could be forgiven for thinking that someone had set things up to make it even harder to blame those ultimately responsible for the mess that elected Members have to contend with. Recently elected councillors won’t have a clue what I’m talking about.

Accountability (direct, anyway) for cock-ups doesn’t come into it because the possibility of failure obviously wasn’t considered when the Master Plan was drawn up (although finessed would be a better way of putting it because the process started back in 2013), although that doesn’t stop service directors (and portfolio holders) from levelling a charge of heresy against anyone who dares question their actions, or in the case of highways inactions, which in the case of what I started is what this is all about.

At a recent online Member’s briefing on highways for newly elected councillors (and those of us who wanted to see if the message had changed in the interim) we were given the rationale for the current way of working. The commissioning structure was explained and the reasons given for it.


Basically, we elected members had to be nicer/kinder because there was now only a handful of directly-employed Shropshire Council officers administering the two main ‘contractors’, Kier (hands on) and WPS (planning).

In other words, “commissioning” writ large. The day of the spreadsheet made fully flesh and blood had finally arrived. The days of the mortals, it was made clear, are numbered.

And because these were “experts” in the arcane world of work planning, commissioning was sacrosanct, once committed to paper it became Holy Writ.

I’m not making too much of my widely-publicised actions over the state of our highways around Highley when I say that had I been a more sensitive soul then much of what was said about the importance of adhering to the new reporting orthodoxy should have made my ears burn, except that the only thing burning was an increasing sense of outrage that so much was being dictated to us by people who operate from a different set of principles to us; they according to the accepted wisdom of detached professionals; us according to the intimately-known consequences of such a detached view!

But they didn’t want to know. Had an answer to everything. When things started to get embarrassingly close to forcing them to face up to OUR reality, then whoever was “having a go” at the time was closed down by Tanya Miles (Director of Adult Services, presumably put in charge of the proceedings because she was well qualified to assess highways issues and how they impact on the local communities that elected Members know so well) who was chairing the meeting. Had there been a genuine wish to understand the issues that had so incensed not only some of us elected Members, but so many town and parish clerks at the online meeting held the day before, then it would have been agreed to pick up on at least some of the main points and called them into scrutiny. As it was, existing and emerging concerns were summarily dismissed in order to keep things moving on, which has always been the problem that prompted all of my actions. But hey.

And, of course, £130,000 having already been spent on that erstwhile highways consultant (whose expertise we ordinary souls obviously didn’t appreciate, but then how could we, being only ordinary mortals who spend all our time listening to what our constituents tell us), they were hardly likely to say anything that called that expense into question.


Charmley is just doing his job. In fact, the modus operandi of all portfolio holders is the same, having developed that familiar patronising way of delivering a response that says absolutely nothing. The word “anodyne” was coined for local authority use.

The officers presenting the council’s case obviously hadn’t bothered to check whether the facts as they saw them aligned with the everyday reality of “ordinary” people who are dependent on their cars to get to work, hospital, college, and who are fed up with bills of several hundred pounds to fix cars seriously damaged by sub-standard roads, a particularly annoying – indeed frightening – experience when you’re driving home after a hard day’s work only to end up stationary on a dangerous bend on a lonely country road in the dark.

There is a lot of ‘background’ to the current newspaper reports, going back not weeks or months but years.


It is significant that not once has ANYONE (certainly none of those expressing an opinion at that briefing) stepped into the current highways controversy my actions have stirred up and spoken with me or the clerk to my parish council to find out whether there is a case for them to answer, but then the assumption on their part is that there ISN’T a case to answer, an assumption recently ripped apart by what I can imagine is one very frustrated traffic engineer in the employ of Kier who, probably thoroughly fed up that Kier has been getting the flak for the shortcomings of Shropshire Council highways officers and, having to keep schtum, got up from her desk and driven out to Highley to see for herself.

This was the outcome…

Sent: 26 May 2021 09:20

To: Dave Tremellen <Dave.Tremellen@shropshire.gov.uk>

Subject: New Road, Highley

Importance: High

Good Morning Cllr Tremellen

I just wanted to make you aware that there will be an emergency closure on New Rd, Highley this morning. After driving the road yesterday I believe that the potholes need to be treated as an emergency so we are going to make them safe this morning.

Emergency services and buses will be allowed through due to the short notice of this. As we are making temporary repairs to make safe we will try and get this done as quickly as possible so as not to cause too much disruption.

I have attached a diversion route for your information. This will be the same diversion for the Multevo closure in July.

Apologies for any inconvenience caused I just don’t think that these can be left as they are for much longer after seeing the full extent.

Kind regards

Now THAT is a response from someone not afraid to exercise their professional scepticism and question assumptions to ensure that professional hubris doesn’t get in the way of doing the job they’re paid to do – maintain highways and fix them when they go wrong, which is what the rest of us ordinary mortals judge them on.


At the February 2014 meeting of Full Council I asked…

QUESTION 7: MR DAVE TREMELLEN will ask the following question: Will the Portfolio Holder for Highways admit that they have lost the battle with potholes in South East Shropshire? In the event that they still cling to the delusion that they are in fact still in control of roads in my part of the county, would they point to the evidence to support that claim.

MRS CLAIRE WILD, the Portfolio Holder for Highways and Transport, will reply: Shropshire Council has not lost the battle with potholes in South East Shropshire.

Claire Wild wasn’t lying and hindsight can be cruel sometimes, but the passage of time has made my case for me. Claire would have been better keeping quiet. Very quiet!

First elected in 2013 I have asked questions of portfolio holders for highways and since 2013 been given the stock answers that tell us nothing, except that someone has spent time thinking up new excuses for why the situation can’t be that bad. Oh, and anyway, other areas have the same, if not worse, situations, as if that makes it all OK.

So what kicked it all off big time?

There is a perfect stretch of road a few hundred yards just outside my patch, heading south on the B4555, it was completely rebuilt several years ago, the job having been done to what was standard spec back then – in other words, properly: new foundations, drainage off neighbouring fields dealt with, a superb job, a ‘proper job’, it was just beyond ‘New Road’, that section of the B4555 that is the southern exit to Highley referred to in the newspaper reports. (Back then we had Mouchel – with whom I was in direct telephone contact – as consultants and the main council contractor was Ringway, subsequently replaced by WPS and Kier respectively.)

About two years ago a wooded section through the lowest part of New Road started to break up. Deeply wooded, at the bottom of a valley, visibility isn’t the best during daylight and at night it is positively lethal, especially if you are on two wheels. Reports of the surface defects did result in what can only be called surface repairs if you’re in a particularly charitable mood, typically consisting of a shovelful of tarmac in isolated potholes tamped down with a boot that lasted a couple of days, if that, the loose tarmac being kicked up by passing traffic and making the road surface deadly.

That was a situation that had been ongoing for at least two years and which had got progressively worse, to the extent that local drivers had started to divert away from the B4555 onto the unclassified Netherton Lane, thence onto the unclassified and single-track Borle Mill Lane, re-emerging at the junction with the B4555 where the earlier “proper job” had been done several years ago, creating a situation the dangers of which (narrow single-track lane) were pointed out to our highways department only to be completely ignored. And I mean completely ignored.

And then, adding insult to the injury of ignored pleas from an entire local community, our parish clerk got this, the notification that Shropshire Council highways intended to SURFACE DRESS that immaculate stretch of carriageway…

Hi Ella,

I attended a virtual meeting recently to discuss the Council’s capital works programme for 2021/22/23 and beyond, Highley High Street was again mentioned as a scheme for 2021/22 financial year. I don’t know what the extents of a future scheme will be or when the works are programmed to commence but the location is on the agenda.

With regards to surface dressing it is my understanding that the sections of the B4555 are to be surface dressed this season. Surface dressing is an industry recognised method of extending the life of a road surface, preventing formation of carriageway defects, preventing water ingress and improving surface texture (skidding resistance).

The work undertaken earlier in the year was in preparation for this work.


[end quote]

To which I replied (and notice at this point I was still protecting the officers by redacting their contact details)…


Sorry ******, but if this surface dressing is in fact part of a “planned” programme of work then it seriously calls into question the sanity of whoever planned it. I challenge whoever is behind this work to meet with us, visit the various stretches of New Road (B4555) and insist that what’s planned makes any kind of sense.

I don’t apologise for any perceived slight in that challenge because no one can stand anywhere along that potholed track through the wood and insist that they deserve to be called a highways engineer. As none of you guys seem prepared to listen to either Ella or myself, I am seriously tempted to post each of your email addresses across social media and let you lot handle the flak.

Unless, that is, whoever has the balls to meet us on site and attempt to justify what’s planned makes the time to actually visit the site(s) and demonstrate just how wrong several hundred people are to challenge this ridiculous scheme.


Dave Tremellen

Member for Highley Division of Shropshire Council

[end quote]

About eight years ago, I started a local Facebook page specifically to keep all highways issues in one place, and it was to that FB page that I posted this:

We’re waiting for a response from “the professionals”. If we haven’t heard back with an answer that MAKES ANY KIND OF SENSE I’ll post the email addresses of all the officers involved in this exchange and leave it to you guys as to what you say. [Note: Capitalised emphasis mine.]

… I gave “our” highways engineers the choice, they could either talk to me as the elected representative of the 3,600+ residents of Highley or they could talk to those 3,600+ residents directly on an individual basis, after all I was having to fend off criticism of THEIR failure to “get the roads fixed” so why should I have to carry the can?


Failing to get so much as an acknowledgement to my challenge (effectively two fingers from the professionals), I put the direct business email addresses of the relevant highways officers on that local Facebook page…

These are the direct email addresses for all those highways officials responsible for the state of our roads.

I’ve included those who are still responsible for the management of works AND those who were/are responsible for the highways policy and the remote way that the works programme is administrated.

Write to them individually, do not copy them into one email because they will leave it to others to answer for them, and be prepared to be ignored in which case it becomes a test of how persistent each side can be.

You will also find yourself answered by a PA-generated stock answer, but persist until you get a human-generated response that addresses the specific issue.

I’ll post in another thread about the jobs we’ve had pulled and the assurances I and Ella Preston the parish clerk have received about the work having only been ‘postponed’ which, in the case of the 20 mph safety zone around the school (scheduled to be done in September 2017), was pulled in favour of work at Shifnal’s Idsall School, which I was assured “would be done sometime in 2018″.

Similar responses were had when the comprehensive work (fully designed, costed and programmed) on the road from the Severn Centre junction down to Birdcage Walk was arbitrarily cancelled.

It’s up to you lot now!

Well, Highley residents came across in no uncertain terms, unfazed by the stock responses that gave rise to the direct action in the first place.


But I will make this very important point. My action was not only prompted by the general pothole/collapsing road situation across Shropshire, it was also prompted by the unbelievable pomposity of highways engineers who, even when they did agree to meet us, didn’t turn up and didn’t have the courtesy to apologise for their absence and suggest a place, date, and time for an alternative meeting. On every such occasion we have tried to accommodate them, especially when the suggestion for that original meeting has come from them (and we still have the emails).

And, of course, locally “we” wanted to know HOW those highways officers could STILL justify spending so much on surface dressing that perfectly good stretch of road (probably the best half-mile stretch of carriageway in South Shropshire) when they had to drive over a collapsing stretch of road to get to it! But the manual of national standards they work to said it was time to surface dress and so surface dressing it was and to hell with what was actually desperately NEEDED.

Highley is a vibrant community of 3,600+ people, with a High Street deeply incised with “potholes” that can be measured in feet. Again, in 2017 (the 20 mph school safety zone was pulled at the same time in favour of a scheme at Idsall School, Shifnal) a full programme of works was scheduled to completely resurface the centre of the village (we were even given a choice of surface colours) and put waiting time limits on the three lay-bys in response to requests by local traders, restrictions that were agreed several months ago but have yet to be authorised by Shropshire Council’s legal department.

I was hoping Shropshire would retain Steve Davenport as portfolio holder for highways because whatever faults he may have had, as a motorcyclist he recognised a dangerous road surface when he saw it. I have to admit to serious concerns when I heard that Lezlie Picton and Steve Charmley had been elected by the more timorous of their peers, especially with the latter being handed the highways portfolio, because their response to a dangerous road surface was more likely to be just to avoid addressing the problem rather than getting it fixed, a fear that has been amply justified by the Shropshire Star article that heads this blog.

As for Lezlie Picton’s ‘commitment’ to ‘review’, well, words come cheap “assurances” come even cheaper. Now that she has made herself part of the highways department her words will be judged alongside theirs.

It was under Steve Davenport’s (knowledgeable) aegis that we eventually got this follow up to that earlier “emergency” email from the Kier engineer…

Good afternoon Cllr Tremellen

I would like to make you aware of a road closure that will be taking place on the B4555. This closure is to undertake highway repairs using a Multievo machine. Multievo gives longer lasting results than regular patching.

In the meantime we will undertake temporary repairs to the defects in order to make them safe.

The closure dates will be as follows:

B4555 New Road – 12/07 – 14/07

B4555 Ingram Lane to Eardington – 15/07 – 23/07

I will forward the diversion maps to you when I have received them I just wanted to take this opportunity to give you notice of the dates.

Kind regards

Charmley had to say something when he was phoned by the Shropshire Star journalist, just a pity that what he said reflected pretty much what had caused the problems in the first place, ignorance of the on-site situation compounded by complete indifference to a situation that had been caused by his administration’s decision three years ago to cut £20 million out of the highways budget and continue to spend money on projects (a lot of them coincidentally favouring Charmley’s own sphere of influence in and around Oswestry (Shurely a coincidence, Ed), financed with money that could be more productively spent elsewhere in the county.


Charmley and his Oswestry mates not only insist nothing has changed since that £20 million kick in the teeth, but that such budgetary cuts have actually improved efficiency.

All of which takes me back to the days of Chris Edwards. Who he? The last of the good guys with a profound understanding of how to make the relationship between elected Members and the Executive work. I wrote at some length about Chris (where, for reasons of confidentiality necessary at the time, he was referred to as ‘Jim Smith’) and the shameful way he was treated in the blog article entitled ‘#68: Now you see him, now you don’t. Lifting at least a corner of the Shirehall carpet.’

Back in the day there was real mutual understanding of the respective roles of those who, regardless of whether elected or salaried, saw their function as being “servants” of the Shropshire taxpayer and their respective roles as being genuinely ‘plan led’, the plan having been mutually agreed as the best that could be achieved under increasingly constrained resources. As it is now, what semblance of a plan exists is predetermined by director-led policies that are inward-looking and iron-clad defensive.

Come back Keith, all is forgiven, or might as well be.

And I simply can’t resist…



Safety zone around Highley Community Primary School, fully designed and costed but removed from the works programme in 2017 in favour of work at Idsall School, Shifnal. No sign of it ever being resurrected…

#81: And another one hits the dust – long overdue.

I’ve got a lot of respect for David Minnery as an effective presenter and interpreter of the council’s finances, which is why I find this so depressing – not because he IS standing down for all the reasons given, but because he allowed the situation he now finds intolerable to persist (despite all the evidence for many years). In many ways he has been a gently spoken apologist for the administration.

That said, I can see how it is possible for a highly qualified accountant to work collectively with those parts of the administration that are built on spreadsheets, but only if you separate that part out of the consideration of the power wielded by the political constituency (as I’ve described in earlier articles). You don’t need to take too powerful a magnifying glass to read between the lines of David Minnery’s email to see that that’s how he’s managed to square his conscience with his professional duties – for I’m convinced that’s how he saw his role, as one of duty to the brief he was handed.

His loss to the administration will be keenly felt by those who appreciated what he did and the civilised way in which he did it.

I’ll let him off the hook that he allowed himself to be tethered with and continue to wonder how those he is leaving behind find it so easy to accept the conditions he no longer feels able to tolerate in all conscience.

From: David Minnery <david.minnery@shropshire.gov.uk>
Sent: 22 April 2021 11:00
To: Members <Members@shropshire.gov.uk>
Subject: A sad day….

Good Morning All,

I wanted you to hear directly from me that I have this morning tendered my resignation from the Conservative Party and, accordingly, from the Conservative Group. As a consequence I have also resigned from the Fire Authority with immediate effect.

It has not been an easy decision; I joined the Party in 1978 and have fought, and mostly won, many elections for them over the years and I have always been proud to represent them in Local Government.

Sadly the Party today is not the Party I joined; I have always believed in ‘doing the right thing’ and in keeping true to my principles but it is perfectly clear to everyone (except, possibly, themselves) that the Party today no longer shares that ethos, and this is true from the highest to lowest levels. It both demonstrates and tolerates behaviour that in the past would have resulted in automatic expulsion or resignation and I am no longer prepared to be associated with it.

In case this is my last opportunity to do so I would like to wish everyone who is contesting the election the very best of luck. I bear no ill will towards any of you, this decision is entirely due to a personal battle with my conscience and I know there will be many who won’t recognise the descriptions I have used to describe their Party and may take exception to my words. No offense is intended, and I apologise if any has been caused. As I always have attempted to do – I say it as I see it.

It has been an honour to have been a part of this Authority and to have been entrusted with some responsibilities over the years. I have enjoyed working closely with our Officers and with fellow Members of all persuasions and I have appreciated the contributions made by all sides to our debates and discussions.

To those of you who are not contesting the election I wish you a long and happy release from the trials and tribulations of Local Government in these very difficult times; may you live long and prosper!

With sincere best wishes,

Cllr David Minnery

80#: Well, who’d have thought it? (Well, all those of you who read #73: On coffins and premature political deaths for a start!)

From: Karen Calder <karen.calder@shropshire.gov.uk>
Sent: 19 April 2021 15:45
To: Members <Members@shropshire.gov.uk>
Subject: Goodbye

Dear All,

At the last Council Meeting of the previous administration we had the opportunity to say farewell to Members not standing, for whatever reason this has not been afforded to us in this administration. I hope you will indulge me or of course you can just delete me!

To my friend and comrade in arms on many occasions Ann Hartley, what the hell did you do to be deselected!!! Shame on you NSCA!! You have represented this Council with dignity and grace throughout your tenure as Chairman. You were Cabinet Member for Children’s services and held the respect of Officers and Headteachers alike for your knowledge and commitment to the future generation of Shropshire. The only other thing I can add apart from good luck and good health is watch the space after the back room deals and the election results, who will be Chairman I wonder?

Lee Chapman, It was a pleasure to work with you and I wish you well in your future endeavours.

Michael Wood, you walk away from this Authority with your integrity intact. You never shied away from being a critical friend of the Administration…or just plain critical. We shared many a moment of despair at the lack of direction and decision by the Administration.

Jane Mackensie. Your time as Mayor of Shrewsbury was fantastic I was in awe. The tragedy of your daughter’s death understandably threw you into a place only those who know that pit of despair will understand. Some of the projects and charities you started I hope you are able to continue with and if I can ever be of help or support please let me know.

Hannah Frazer. We do not know each other very well but I have always respected your views and would always listen very carefully when you spoke in Council or at any meetings. The Council will be a lesser place without your contributions.

Madge Shineton. I first met Madge when I was Chair of the interim planning committee and we covered all 5 Districts and Boroughs with differences and nuances of local plans. It was I thought a straight forward decision until Madge stood up to speak and she ran a coach and horses through the officers recommendation! My admiration for her has never waivered since then. She has been an absolute rock of dependency and advice. Thank you Madge!

Pauline Dee. We have known each other for all the years I have been involved in Local Government, our paths mainly crossed in planning and you always had the concerns of your residents at the forefront of any contributions you made, but also you reflected those views on applications outside of your division. In the days of the LJCs you were always in the thick of it on the myriad of topics covered and your commitment to the residents of Wem should not go unrecognised.

David Minnery, what another cock up by NSCA! I wish you good luck in the upcoming election, you have always shown a pragmatic approach as opposed to a dogmatic approach, long may that continue.

Roger Hughes, your altercations with some on the NSCA are a little more public, I know you wont mind me saying that. But it illustrates some of the backroom machinations which take place. Good luck and I hope you are successful in the election.

Tina Woodward, again our paths did not cross very often, but yours again was a voice I listened to when you spoke in Council. I wish you well in whatever you do next!

Malcomn Pate. I first came to know Malcolm when a requirement/ expectation of a leader was integrity, and he had that in bucket loads. He led the drive for Unitary Status and was derided in many Districts and Boroughs, but he carried on and drove it through, only to be unceremoniously dumped by a coalition of self interest from past leaders of the Districts and Boroughs. He was held in high regard not just locally but his participation in regional and national politics gave him a profile which stood up well with his counterparts and reflected well back onto Shropshire Council. He was the one we turned to give stability to a very rocky boat when the leader stood down. Calm returned and the election followed…the rest is history and you can draw your own conclusions. I am so pleased that Malcolm has found happiness and a life outside of politics, good health!

Claire Aspinall and Mike Lee…..well done NSCA on your selection process there!

Stuart West. RIP your treatment by the administration after the last election was despicable. Nothing more to say, those of you responsible hang your heads in shame!

To the Leaders of the Opposition… Alan keep on being the Rottweiller I’ve always thought of you as being and continue to cut through the crap whenever  you hear it! Roger well done for finally getting a Lib Dem suggestion on the Conservative Manifesto …LED street lighting!

Finally my own swan song, it has been suggested that I am a one horse pony… health…so be it!

This has been in no particular order and if I have missed someone apologies no offence intended, but where offence is meant I hope it is taken.

Kind regards to you all…well most of  you!  x

County Councillor’s Report to Highley Parish Council – March 2021.

Democracy has an enemy, it’s called apathy, which is why everyone needs to get behind the campaign to get people registered to vote NOW and to push those who are either too busy or otherwise indisposed to get registering for a postal vote.

It’s not just the (county) unitary council elections this time, our parish council is also up for re-election, on which subject I’d remind fellow councillors that in the 2017 parish elections a few parish voting slips were thrown away because of lack of instructions about where they should go in the return envelopes. That had significance when the two-vote difference between two candidates was close enough for a recount to be called. I did raise the matter with Shropshire Council’s Returning Officer but I was accused of being mischievous, her attitude was that it was a parish council election and who cares about them. In other words, don’t make life difficult for someone who can’t accept that they’ve slipped up, despite clear Electoral Commission guidelines to Returning Officers NOT to take for granted that members of the public would instinctively know that the parish returns could be sent back in the large envelope alongside the sealed county returns envelope, an instruction that should have appeared in the instructions but didn’t. It wasn’t just a few elderly parishioners who were confused, a number of younger voters were also concerned that they’d “thrown away their vote”.

There are a lot of changes coming to the way our community develops. Planning laws are changing to give greater power to the executive to make decisions on our behalf which, roughly translated, means we’ll be told what we really, really need and have it explained to us in simple terms that can be expressed in that classic four-word riposte: “Like it or lump it”. Mummy knows best, although in this case Mummy looks and acts remarkably like a South American dictator.

You’ll have seen the CCTV cameras going up, largely thanks to the sterling persistence of our parish clerk, Ella Preston. It will cover the entire length of the village, from the junction of the main road at the pen factory end of Netherton Lane, to Haggs Corner/Bynd Lane/Netherton and on to cover the entrance to Highley at the top end. The system incorporates Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and although reactive (not “policed”), it is monitored by security cleared volunteers who can react to a reported situation in a matter of minutes from the control room in the police station at the Severn Centre.

On the 4th of last month I attended the Police & Crime Panel (PCP) meeting where I raised the matter of working more closely with our local SNT to overcome the additional constraints imposed by Covid, to the extent of including them in the list of regular attendees at our online parish council meetings, something that used to happen regularly on a face-to-face basis a few years ago. Hopefully, the promised new recruits will start feeding through into the divisions within the next few months and we can get back to how we used to work.

Of course the Highley Action Group made up for that loss of regular contact and in a lot of ways was mutually beneficial, not least the informal exchange of information that kept both the SNT and the parish council up to date with local trends, but there was still a need for a more formal set-up on a more regular basis and because, given the public platform on which the parish council operates, it demonstrated to the public that there WAS a partnership and that their concerns were being taken seriously. I think the February meeting with PC Steve Mellor was considered a success by all concerned.

I reported to the PCP how successful Steve Mellor’s attendance had been and also commended Inspector Nikki Roberts’ proactive approach to the management of our local SNT, suggesting that on the basis of the success of that first online meeting the Chief Constable might consider promoting that initiative to other SNTs encouraging them to ‘attend’ parish council meetings. In fact Nikki Roberts has written to all SNTs on her patch encouraging them to do just that!

The Licensing Act Sub Committee meeting on the 12th was of a complexity none of we three members had ever encountered before. Such meetings are by their nature an exercise in balancing probabilities, but this one was especially conflicting for me because I’d been dealing with a complex local example of how a “breach of conditions” can result in some pretty outrageous decisions that seemed to fly in the face of reason. In this case we were being ‘strongly advised’ to reject the application because of a ‘predicted’ public nuisance based on what had happened elsewhere, and there was I asking how come enforcement were happy to allow a public nuisance here caused by an admitted breach of planning conditions to continue just because the company had “mitigated” the nuisance, despite that “mitigation” failing on a number of occasions, causing the nuisance to re-occur. So in the Highley case we had an admitted breach of planning conditions allowed to continue, creating a dangerous precedent for a neighbouring development subject to the same planning conditions, whilst here we were being advised to refuse permission because of a public nuisance that had yet to occur. But then in drawing the distinction between justice and the law who said life was fair?

Otherwise it’s all been about what I call “domestic” stuff, not least highways. I took up a few local issues arising out of the way local people had been treated by Kier sub-contractors. A couple of those had involved people from outside Highley, but my reason for following through on them was because the incidents were symptomatic of the failure of both Shropshire’s highways contractors AND Shropshire Council management to actually supervise staff, because their attitude towards the people their work was directly affecting showed a lack of care that carried over into the sub-standard work they were being paid to do by Shropshire tax payers!

Dave Tremellen

Independent County Councillor for Highley Division of Shropshire Council

23 February 2021

#79: I hope you lot are sitting comfortably…

I’ve written elsewhere about how relaxed Shropshire Council is about “standards”, although in most of the cases I’ve written about, by standards I’m referring to the ethical standards that are supposed to govern behaviour in public office, not necessarily the professional standards that govern (or guide) the way in which an official function is carried out – in other words, the function not the form.

Back in 2015, once I’d been identified as the mover of the Code of Conduct Complaint against then-leader of Shropshire Council Keith Barrow, my phone and email system started filling up with messages. It was mind-blowing to someone who still retained (although by then more in hope than expectation) the idea that local government was about public service.

And the phone calls keep coming, even now, one of which had me looking at the phone in disbelief, such was its potential to blow a hole in some comfortable lives over an incident that some people are probably still hoping has been consigned to historial loss of memory.

What I was hearing started alarm bells ringing – very loud alarm bells – alarm bells that wouldn’t switch off because current events in a certain part of north Shropshire were, as a result of that telephone call, taking on a significance beyond what you’d gather from bland newspaper reports of otherwise mundane activities at a certain parish level.

Investigations are ongoing. (Love that phrase.)

But where were we? Oh yeah, standards, professional competence, whatever, or rather professional incompetence compounded by a refusal to accept that a mistake has been made, pride having come before what would have been a fall big enough to teach even the most arrogant that had they only swallowed that pride, neither they nor the innocent parties their actions have impacted on would find themselves being written about here.

AN ASIDE: It is usually a case of Shirehall protecting its own, which is more the pity because there are so many council officials who don’t need the protective ring of silence that characterises the Shirehall Establishment upper-echelon response to reports that most “decent people” find shocking when they learn about them. The lower ranks just get on with the job they’ve trained to do – and usually do it bloody well.

TNS. What about it?

Well, talking about professional competence, or lack of, Oswestry’s TNS (‘The New Saints’ Football Club) is the flagship case in this instance, where an otherwise well-intentioned public sector initiative (run by people engaged in activities well beyond their level of competence) created the conditions for a cock-up that handed a local businessman an opportunity that he’d have been an idiot to ignore.

It was a complex case, rendered unnecessarily complicated by the refusal of Shropshire Council’s legal department to discuss it with the group who had amassed box-files of background information, both formal in terms of the EU legislation (State Aid) covering such financial transactions and the internal emails that were so revealing of the faulty reasoning that those responsible for the transaction had depended on, creating a situation that could only go one way – down!

Rather than stop that downward spiral into an even bigger mess, the old staples of commercial confidentiality and ‘an ongoing court case’ were rolled out (plus a few lies).

I was actually offered the chance to “view” the material that Shropshire Council was relying on to reclaim the £80,000 of public sector money it had given out in something called a ‘legacy grant’, but as the offer to view was conditional on my not talking about what I’d seen, and as I knew how complete our own investigations had been, it was likely that what I’d be reading in those ‘confidential’ papers was stuff we already knew. Had I then published ANYTHING, and had that contained even a hint of the same material in both dossiers, then how could I defend against a charge of breaching that confidentiality condition? How do you prove that you already knew about what the official files contained, and how do you prove that you already had more information than the official version contained? That last was particularly annoying given that we had offered all that material (gathered and collated without the constraints that official channels are, errr, constrained by) to Shropshire Council’s legal department and had the offer turned down!

So I declined the offer to view. (Although I did, subsequently, read the official Audit Department report and commended it to other councillors as a very good read – given the constraints the report’s author had had to work around – but it said only what had happened without speculation about why or more importantly how. That I had to read it in a locked room (really) with a member of the audit department sitting alongside me was pretty strange, but at least I wasn’t frisked when I went in.

It’s not worth going over all that detail again, suffice to say that it was obvious from the most cursory of readings that the people involved in the scheme simply didn’t understand what they were dealing with. Shropshire Council’s legal department possibly did, but because of the high level people dealing with the grant (councillors – both Shropshire county and Oswestry Town Council – as well as Shropshire Council service directors) they seemed to have chosen not to take oversight of the scheme. That’s where the ultimate failure lay, subsequently compounded by a series of high-level deflections from the truth by people who don’t care what anyone thinks of them, and who in fact don’t HAVE to care because they’ve got away with it for so long thanks to the comforting ring of steel known as a constituency association. I wrote about it in ‘#27. The power of patronage.’

Patronage plays an incredibly important part in the formation of the power groupings, it’s power magnified by the social cohesion created by political party constituencies exercising their power and influence. It isn’t just about financial and back-office support, it’s the moral support they offer through the social functions that draw like-minded people together, confirming bias, the groups thus created forming the bonds that bind; break the bond and you threaten the cohesion of the group. Dare to do that and you’re dead – politically and socially. To a member of any mainstream party that’s the end of the civilised world.

There had been a lot of shuffling of feet when the TNS matter was raised at a meeting of Oswestry Town Council (OTC) by Cllr Duncan Kerr’s submission of a report by Private Investigator Paul Wiseman, the subject having been made an open agenda item against the wishes of many of the town council, including its leader, Cllr Vince Hunt, but to his credit the OTC town clerk held on to the principle of openness and transparency and it all came out. One of those “STOP THE PRESSES!” moments. Sweet.

I was at that meeting, having been in Oswestry anyway for a meeting of our informal investigative group who, having heard that this particular agenda item was scheduled and as the subject matter sort of resonated with those of us who had been so closely involved in the Morda ransom strip saga*, we trogged across to the town hall and sat and listened – spellbound.

*See: #24. When the burden of proof is on trial.

This was big stuff and we didn’t have to look hard to see the same faces staring back at us and hear the same names cropping up. And that made us start wondering.

It was actually the deafening silence that descended on the whole thing that grabbed me because, as the saying goes, people seemed to be getting away with murder, so time to rattle a cage or two.

I was incredulous that when Paul Wiseman’s report was presented to OTC and the matter entered the public domain and direct questions were asked of the then CEO of Shropshire Council (Clive Wright) and the (by six months, relatively) new Leader of Shropshire Council Peter Nutting, who dismissed concerns over the revelations as “old news”, saying that it had been on his desk since he’d taken over as council leader six months before. So what, his innocent face said, is all the fuss about? It’s all in hand, no need to make a fuss.

Hmmm. I wasn’t convinced and this was my submission to Standards.


That Cllr Peter Nutting, Leader of Shropshire Council, deliberately withheld information regarding the unlawful circumventing by others of Regulations in relation to state aid and acted, with others, to forestall independent investigation of serious breaches by Members and senior Council officers of Shropshire Council’s Code of Conduct..


I was made aware of a potential financial scandal involving The New Saints Football Club of Oswestry (hereafter referred to as ‘TNS’) at a meeting of Oswestry Town Council (OTC) on the evening of 29th January 2018, having travelled to Oswestry for a meeting of the (informal) Taxpayer’s Oversight Committee in connection with other matters. On learning from others present that one of the items on the OTC agenda was “a loan made to TNS”, the decision was made to attend the OTC meeting where we were handed details by the Town Council Clerk of an investigation by Mr Paul Wiseman relating to the non-repayment of an £80,000 loan to TNS by Shropshire Council.

Listening to the subsequent debate by members of OTC, the seriousness of what had happened was brought home to me, especially as Members and officers of Shropshire Council had been closely involved from the outset and I was curious to know to what extent, to which end I submitted a two-part written question to the full meeting of Shropshire Council due to meet on 22nd February 2018.

Despite the written question being sent before the deadline for Member’s Questions, it happened that the question was not received by Legal & Democratic Services in time for inclusion in the agenda because it had somehow been retained in the Shropshire Council email system ‘Outbox’, clearly date- and time-stamped with the actual date and time of sending. (I subsequently learned on impeccable authority that such occurrences are not as rare as originally thought).

When that situation and the circumstances that had caused it became apparent Claire Porter, Head of Legal & Democratic Services, offered me the choice either of having the question added to the agenda as a loose-leaf inclusion or to have the question passed directly to the person best able to answer it, I chose the latter in the hope of getting a speedy answer. At this date, 19h March 2018, I have yet to receive an answer, let alone the common courtesy of an acknowledgment.


Subsequent to the above, in an interview with BBC Radio Shropshire on the 26th February 2018 (MP3 file attached), Councillor Nutting admitted that he had been aware since taking office as Leader of Shropshire Council on the 15th May 2017 of the issues surrounding the setting up and non-repayment of that £80,000 interest-free loan to privately-owned Oswestry-based company TNS in May 2012.

That interview suggested the possible reason my question to Council had not been acknowledged, despite having been personally forwarded to whoever was thought best to address it by the Head of Legal & Democratic Services, Claire Porter; it was not because the answer was not known but because the decision had been made to ignore it by whoever Claire Porter had sent it to.


The difficult-to-ignore conclusion was that that would only have happened to avoid embarrassment to the Council and to those departments and individuals involved in what had all the ingredients of a major scandal that dwarfed anything ex-councillor Keith Barrow had been found culpable of back in December 2015.

Whilst Keith Barrow’s failure to disclose DPI could arguably be explained as the “oversight” claimed by him in interviews to the Shropshire Star following his resignation, this current “TNS case” had all the indications of, at best – given the individuals involved – incompetence on a major scale possibly involving a subsequent cover-up.

NOTE: I personally read nothing into Keith Barrow’s being one of the principle players in the case (he was Leader of Shropshire council at the time and a member of Oswestry Town Council), despite the initial loan application having been instigated by him, because he sought legal advice on avoiding issues concerning the law governing State Aid to commercial organisations and had proceeded on the basis of that advice.

The loan was made under the guise of a grant known as a Legacy Grant on advice from the Legal & Democratic Services of Shropshire Council, as evidenced in an email (attached) dated 21 May 2012 from Shropshire Council Community Action Manager #### ###### to an individual whose name has been redacted on the email, which states:

We have received further advice from colleagues in legal and can now confirm the details of exactly how we should proceed with how this grant should be approved and made to ensure that there are State Aid issues to consider.

The email, one of a series of exchanges between #### ###### and the Legal & Democratic Services, then advises:

Within the application form can you state something along the lines of ‘TNS would like to apply for an 80K grant and will consequently voluntarily make grants of £?p.a. (confirm)? years (confirm) to Oswestry Town Council for purposes to be agreed by the Joint Economic Partnership’. This will show that the ‘repayments’ are being made voluntarily by TNS and not as a condition (which will lead us back into loan territory).

The form of words was used to hide the fact that a taxpayer-funded interest-free loan was made to a privately-owned company contrary to State Aid rules, the latter being circumvented by the use of the financial device known as a Legacy Grant, the change of its legal status from a “loan” to a “grant” being wholly dependent on repayments being made not directly to Shropshire Council but to a third party, Oswestry Town Council, through a separate entity, Oswestry Joint Economic Board, established with the sole purpose of accepting repayments of the loan, the first repayment being due on the 1st January 2013.

All of that based on…

…further advice from colleagues in legal […] of exactly how we should proceed […] to ensure that there are State Aid issues to consider.’

NOTE: the syntax of that underlined section, whilst confusing, in no way alters the tenor of the message which advises the recipient that potential “issues” over the use of ‘State Aid’ should be avoided by using a financial device specifically established to create the impression that the taxpayer monies paid did not constitute an interest-free loan to a commercial entity.

Councillor Nutting’s description of the issues as “complex” (ref: BBC interview) is disingenuous. A simple, plain-English, explanation of the terms of the loan was readily available to him from the first day he assumed his position as Leader of Shropshire Council when, as he testifies in the interview with BBC Radio Shropshire’s Joanne Gallacher, he checked the papers sitting on his desk. All he had to do was ask the Speaker of his Council, Councillor Vince Hill, who, as a member of the Oswestry Joint Economic Board at the time of its establishment and subsequent dissolution, could have unravelled the “complexity” by giving him chapter and verse.

He could also have asked Shropshire Council’s Director of Place and Enterprise, George Candler, who was also a member of the Oswestry Joint Economic Board at the time of its establishment and subsequent dissolution, who could also have unravelled the “complexity” and given him chapter and verse.

He did neither.

The question Councillor Nutting chose not to ask when he found this issue sitting on his desk almost 12 months ago was why, just eight months into the term of the loan, in January 2013 when the first repayment was due to be made, the Oswestry Joint Economic Board, set up to administer repayments of the Legacy Grant, was dissolved. It ceased to exist.

There was nothing to which the repayments could be made and Oswestry Town Council received none of the monies it was entitled to under the explicit terms of the Legacy Grant, the legality of which was wholly dependent on the explicit terms of the repayment schedule being met.

That TNS, Oswestry Town Council, members of the Oswestry Joint Economic Board, Executive Councillors and Cabinet Members (including ex-councillor Keith Barrow, then Leader) of Shropshire Council, together with senior officers of Shropshire Council, knew of the removal of any means of the loan being repaid and knowingly did nothing to recover the monies paid (illegally once the mechanism that circumvented the legal “issues” of using State Aid to support a privately-owned commercial venture had been dismantled) clearly renders them severally and jointly culpable for whatever offence may have been committed.

On the basis of Councillor Nutting’s own admission, his was not a sin of omission driven by ignorance but a clear sin of commission driven by a deliberate decision to ignore the facts when he became aware of them almost twelve months ago.

On that basis, my formal complaint against Councillor Nutting is that contrary to Shropshire Council Code of Conduct, his decision to ignore the facts to avoid having to address the case outlined above is not consistent with maintaining public confidence in this Authority.

His actions ran contrary to the explicit principles of Shropshire Council…

[End of submission.]

“Explicit principles?” The Nolan Principles:


The Code of Conduct Complaint was submitted to the Standards Committee and there was found to be “No case to answer”. No surprises there then.


Lots of similar examples since, including the one where a Shropshire councillor was found guilty of having seriously abused theIr position to try and influence a planning decision in favour of a friend. Significantly, for the protection of the council’s self-image, as a matter of course, whilst the outcome of that Standards Sub Committee meeting was published, the offending councillor wasn’t identified, begging the question: whose reputation was that supposed to be protecting?

ANOTHER ASIDE: A few years ago, I was in conversation with a member of the Conservative group talking about the chaos that surrounded the TNS case and he – a principled man, which is why we were friends – said: “Dave, when we stand for election and get in, we hand our reputations to Shropshire Council and we have every right to expect them to look after it and every right to complain when they don’t.” Never forgotten that.

Out of pure bloody-mindedness I still ask what happened to ‘openness and transparency’, but I often wonder if my regular readers still bother because they know the answer – to question what happened to something implies that it did once exist but remains now only as a distant memory to be treasured.

Are somethings best left to quietly die a noble death, only to be remembered on the anniversary of their passing? Bugger that, our Establishment would love that to be the case.


Depends where you look and who you have doing the looking for you because there has been nothing to compare with Shrewsbury Town Council selling off part of the Greenfield Recreation ground in October 2017. The mayor back then was (Labour’s county and town councillor) Jane Mackenzie. but the deputy mayor was Peter Nutting, who of course was by then Leader of the Local Planning Authority – Shropshire Council.

Shropshire Council and Shrewsbury Town Council are joint defendants in ongoing court cases brought by local residents opposed to the sale of the recreation ground, Shropshire Council for granting planning consent, Shrewsbury Town Council for selling while the land was held in trust.

Now, whilst the residents have to find the costs of fighting the case themselves, Shrewsbury Town Council and Shropshire Council’s costs will be met by Shropshire council-tax payers.

As an elected Member of Shropshire Council, in the event of the ongoing case going against them, I’d like to ask Councillor Mosley if (with his Shropshire Council hat on) he intends to challenge Shropshire Council about how much the ongoing legal action has cost Shropshire Council taxpayers and in the event that Shrewsbury Town Council did not conduct the sale correctly will he be lobbying for full restitution of the cost incurred by Shropshire Council?

That would indeed be something to watch.

Our major investigator has personal experience of buying land off Shropshire Council which the council didn’t own, so if a council that has a ‘specialised’ team can’t get it right…

Well, it begs a few questions, not least of which is whether the same thing happened as happened over the TNS case, where those who would otherwise have exercised “due diligence” let their guard down because the sale and subsequent permissions were taking place with the knowledge of powerful local politicians who gave the impression that they knew what they were doing – and why, indeed, would anyone question (let alone challenge) such powerful personalities?

Why indeed.

PS: The claim against TNS for recovery of the £80,000 “grant” was subsequently dropped by Shropshire Council CEO Clive Wright when the prospect of getting the monies returned would be something of a phyrric victory given that the legal costs would probably exceed the £80K claimed. Can’t say I didn’t warn him, based on the two hour (open and frank) meeting I’d had with Mike Harris, the owner of TNS and his managing director, when the “other side of a messy story” was explained in considerable and very revealing detail.

#78: Right, you’ve got ten minutes…

At full council on Thursday 17 December 2020, the item below, 1.0 Summary, appeared as a matter of routine addressing the matter raised by Leader of the Council Peter Nutting, who holds that title as leader of the majority political group on Shropshire Council, the Conservative group. The distinction is an important one and goes some way to explaining why it seriously pisses me off to see headlines that say: “Shropshire Council voted to…”, instead of: “the ruling group at Shropshire Council voted to…”, or: “a majority of Shropshire councillors voted to…”.

Shropshire Council is ALL of its elected Members, not a portion of them and lumping us all together creates the impression that no one had either voted against or abstained. In short, it is not a homogeneus body moving as one towards a single outcome.

But that is democracy at work. No one has said it’s perfect, just better than most.

Anyway, this is what appeared…



1.1 To consider amendments to Part 4 the Constitution (Council Procedure Rules) relating to questions on notice from members at meetings of the Council.


2.1 That Part 4 of the Constitution, Council Procedure Rules, be amended by the deletion of the second paragraph of 15.3, “Questions on Notice at Committees and Sub-Committees,” and the insertion of an additional para graph after 15.4 “Notice of Questions” as follows:

15.5 Number of questions

A period of up to 30 minutes shall be set aside at each meeting when normally up to six questions will be heard. If notice is received of more than six questions for the same meeting, priority will be given to questions in accordance with the order in which they were received. At any one meeting, no Member may submit more than two questions.

There is currently no limit on the number of questions from members that can be asked at full Council which can lead to the member question session becoming cumbersome and repetitive.

The current limit on the number of questions on notice that can be asked at any one meeting of a Committee or Sub Committee contained in Part 4 of the Constitution at Paragraph 15.3 may be appropriate to apply also to full meetings of the Council.

In order to ensure more than one Member has the opportunity to ask questions, it is proposed also to limit the number of questions any one member can ask at any meeting to two.

Now, quite apart from admiring the ingenuity of what at first glance might appear to be sanctimoniousness, the council’s ruling group could, with this formula – if they so choose – create the opportunity to effectively block all but their own agendas by simply submitting a list of questions guaranteed to take up all available time. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.

I opposed the motion.

It’s worth looking at what prompted the move and to do that we have to take a closer look at the two main opposition political groups, Labour and the Lib Dems, particularly the former whose leader is renowned for a monotone delivery that is without inflection and modulated only in volume. Dedicated to his socialism, once into his pace, he is guaranteed to bore for England on behalf of his Party. If he ever found himself at the head of a revolution, the guillotine wouldn’t be needed because the unbelievers would have died of boredom when he was reading out their death sentences.

Whereas the leader of the Lib Dems, a nice bloke, is so intent on making his points that he will repeat them over and over until he is sure that no one has missed the finer points of the issues he is desperately keen to have us all understand the full import of. Nothing wrong with that and commendable – up to a point – but I’m often left wondering if the point where he eventually stops and sits down is when even he realises he’s heard it all before just minutes ago. But like I said, he’s a nice guy, guilty only of caring too much.

How does a Lib Dem think? Like a Lib Dem and you only realise you’re not thinking like a Lib Dem when you get the disapproving look from one of their number. They’re good at that. I remember back when the ‘Syrian refugee crisis’ kicked off and David Cameron was committing to bringing in asylum seekers direct from the refugee camps in that benighted country.

I was concerned that the only mention of refugees was about Muslims escaping ISIS and, having read an open letter in the national press and broadcasts on the media from Archbishops Carey and Welby (hardly the most xenophobic right-wing of clerics) pleading that CHRISTIAN refugees be given EQUAL (not greater, equal) asylum status to Muslims, I circulated their open letter to all councillors before the Full Council debate on what Shropshire was prepared to do.

During a later debate that morning I had to go to the loo and in the corridor outside the toilets passed Lib Dem Charlotte Barnes (no longer with the council) – if she’d had a knife, despite her caring Lib Dem heart she would happily have plunged it deep into what she obviously thought of as my black soul.

For circulating a letter from two Christian archbishops? What had I missed?

Meanwhile, the media was reporting officially recorded cases of Syrian Christian refugees not only being thrown out of refugee camps but finding themselves heading for Turkey sharing a leaky boat with muslim refugees and unable, when challenged, to quote passages from the Koran from memory, were being summarily thrown overboard together with their children.

Fast forward to this January and the last meeting of the Performance Management Scrutiny Committee. Directors of service were there to answer queries about moving Shirehall to the Pride Hill shopping centre in Shrewsbury, in the process moving virtually all in-house-administered operations to a virtual platform, Covid and the need to work from home having “shown that it can be done”.

I asked first of all why the Executive thought that Shropshire Council was immune to the kind of online cyber attack that had crippled the NHS. Answer came there none.

Having more or less accepted the inevitability of the move to Pride Hill, given that work had already started on the process, I had a second question about what provision had been made for disabled parking because (following the green agenda) there has been a move to “discourage” use of private vehicles, the implication (clearly signalled) being to promote the use of public transport.

Now I genuinely don’t have a problem with “going green” (just the way the Green Party has politicised it with their particular strain of socialism), but I do have concerns since I am now disabled because cancer has eaten away part of my spine and I was particularly anxious to ensure that disabled members of the public – on those occasions when they have to attend a council office on official business – could depend on finding a parking place and, from there, make their way to whichever administrative office they needed to attend. Not a question of particular significance to most people, but one that needed asking because no one else had!

Part way through that second question, the leader of Shropshire Council’s Labour group obviously started to panic because my own question to the officers who were there to justify the move from Shirehall to Pride Hill was taking up time that he wanted.

Ignoring all protocols he started shouting over the top of me, face filling the screen.

Taken completely by surprise (as was everyone else in the meeting), I was so angry at the outburst that at first I could only stare at the screen in disbelief. But then Mosley’s rant broke through the shock and I shouted back: “Christ, Mosley, you’re a piece of work”, told the chair I was leaving the meeting and switched off before I completely lost it. I was shaking with rage for a good hour afterwards.

He’s an interesting character is Alan Mosley. Very aware of his position as leader of the Labour groups at both Shrewsbury Town Council and Shropshire Council, where the group trails way behind that of the Lib Dems (and trailing in the dust of the Tories), it’s a different story at Shrewsbury Town Council where the Labour group are in the majority, which makes Alan Mosley the ‘de facto’ leader of the town council in the same way that Peter Nutting is referenced as the leader of the county council.

Shrewsbury Town Council have a Mayor who is the ‘face of the council’ during their year in office, but given the ceremonial role of mayors they’re largely irrelevant in the power-brokering stakes, especially when you have someone like Alan Mosley pushing all the back-office buttons.

Tellingly, ex-mayor Labour councillor Jane Mackenzie gave up the Labour Party whip…


It’s interesting to see how Councillor Mosely uses his position at town hall to bolster his standing at Shirehall, actually playing on the interests of Labour’s limited power base in and around urban Shrewsbury and at Shrewsbury Town Council and – an interesting tactical mutuality which few observers have noted – sharing self-interests with those North Shropshire Tories neighbouring Shrewsbury to the disadvantage of the rest of Shropshire, as evidence the massive discrepancy in funding between the north and south of the county, with the north getting ten times more funding than the south.


But it isn’t just the south of the county that can find itself losing out, as residents neighbouring a local Shrewsbury recreation ground have found out. But that’s another story.

Report to Highley Parish Council, February 2021

County Councillor’s Report

In these reports I try my damnedest to stay positive, especially with us being surrounded by a doom and gloom pierced only by a vaccine-generated sunbeam that holds out the glimmer of hope of an end to this fearsome pandemic, but these are supposed to be reports of what I suppose are the “political” (small ‘p’) events that affect our uniquely compact community, and finding anything positive in what’s happening at the soon-to-be closed Shirehall is, without putting too fine a point on it, more than just a tad difficult. I make no apology for treating my audience like adults and reporting on things as they are.

Highways remains the focus of attention it’s been for as long as I can remember, except that the intensity of that focus has increased by an order of magnitude in direct proportion to the cuts in Shropshire’s highways budget.

Knowing how hard highways has been hit by Shropshire’s need to meet the ever-increasing cost of children and adult social care, it is difficult to be critical of portfolio holder Steve Davenport without qualifying the criticism by saying that whilst it isn’t all down to a failure of strategic management, the complete lack of supervision at ground level points to lack of effective operational management at the point it’s most needed. The obvious, although ideologically problematic, solution to that would be to do what I’ve advocated for many years… bring it all back in-house!

Councillor Pete Vinall did a run from the B4555/B4363 junction (Kinlet end) to Eardington to assess the latest highways work and came back with what we expected – a catalogue of failures that in my crude way could be summed up in two words, the second of which would be “take”.

The other issue that has taken up a fair bit of time has been the vaccine roll-out. I did ask Peter Nutting where he’d been whilst neighbouring council leaders were challenging Shropshire’s position at the bottom of the vaccination league table, but answer came there none. Not that I expected one, to be honest, Peter Nutting is not only a believer in but an advocate of the policy of ‘ignore them and they’ll go away’. A seasoned politician, he has arrogant disregard programmed into his DNA. He doesn’t care because with the lockdown and a move to a virtual council, the shift of power from the elected body to the Executive is pretty much complete. Shropshire Council is now a business.

That was a realisation that hit me a few years back, not long after Peter Nutting replaced Malcolm Pate in a palace coup that saw him wreak a terrible revenge on those who had conspired to get him removed from his Cabinet position. His first declaration as leader of the ruling group at Full Council following the 2017 local elections was to dismiss the Planning Task & Finish Group whilst it was still deliberating changes to the make up of the planning committees. He didn’t suggest it, he didn’t ask for it to be put to the vote, he declared it as a matter of fact. He started as he meant to go on!

Which explains why we’re still waiting for the outcome of whatever deliberations were supposed to take place over the provision of a ‘safe’ crossing to protect children emerging from the access to the 20-home development behind the telephone exchange. The “treat ‘em mean” (without the “keep ‘em keen” bit) philosophy practised by Peter Nutting has been adopted and honed to perfection by Shropshire’s planning department. If anything personifies the arrogant disregard of Shropshire Council for the impact of planning decisions on Highley it is what is happening with the TC Homes development.

Remember, there is a condition on that planning permission that states that the houses cannot be occupied UNTIL a crossing is in place, something which a highways planning officer was supposed to be working on. A few weeks back the head of planning, Ian Kilby, gave TC Homes the go-ahead to build the houses, mentioning “improvements” to a crossing that doesn’t yet exist and which no one involved in the development (including TC Homes) has any idea about. I questioned Ian Kilby about that. I’m still waiting for an answer. The officer dealing with the matter simply ignores all emails, but she does have a reputation for that. (When I chased up an answer to an earlier enquiry I had an email from TC Homes thanking me because they had also been waiting on an answer to the same question. Now that’s not just unprofessional, it’s bad.)

There have been changes in our Safer Neighbourhood Team, PCSO Sue Eden having retired in December after a long and distinguished career with the police. She was a great officer to have working for us, kind and professional and not afraid to speak her mind. I’m not aware of any plans to replace Sue directly, but a new sergeant looks as if she might bolster the team, I just hope she sticks around because we need people who want to know the area well enough to respond to concerns that might not be important in the greater scheme of things, but important enough to upset a settled community like ours.

And for the first time ever, at last week’s Performance Management Scrutiny Meeting I stormed out of a meeting after an angry exchange with the leader of the Labour group, Alan Mosley, who had arrogantly barged into my asking a question about disabled parking at the proposed relocation of Shirehall to a new civic centre in the Pride Hill shopping centre. It was a display of arrogance that put Peter Nutting to shame and for which there was no excuse, not that Alan Mosley needs an excuse to steam-roll his way through anyone else’s concerns. But as a prominent member of Shrewsbury Town Council and indifferent to what happens elsewhere in the county, he was only living up to his form.

He was angry that I appeared to be taking up time that he wanted for himself, time constraints on questions from Members now being more tightly enforced. The irony is that those constraints are designed to rein in people like Alan Mosley whose monotone political ramblings are what makes him one half of what I call “the suicide squad”. Asked by a councillor friend what I meant by the expression, I explained that by the time Mosley and one other (who shall remain nameless to protect, in this instance, the innocent) had finished their monologues you were on the verge of slitting your wrists.

Dave Tremellen

Independent Member for Highley Division of Shropshire Council.

26 January 2021

#77: Standards Matter. Really? (Or: ‘What’s your problem?)

As you do, in lockdown (now there’s a word now in everybody’s vocabulary) in the middle of a pandemic, I was recently reading ‘Standards Matter 2: Independent Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL)’, September 2020. [https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/standards-matter-2-public-consultation-and-public-sector-survey]

Oh to get out more!!

Promoted as a ‘landscape review of the institutions, processes and structures in place to support high standards of conduct in public office’, it struck me that the whole canon of published standards could have been written with Shropshire Council in mind because escape clauses abound, and we all know that where Shropshire Council is concerned it is escape clauses that matter not the bulk of whatever they appear in, although I doubt the authors saw them as loopholes for Shropshire Council’s Executive to squeeze through.

But at least Shropshire Council didn’t take this one at its word…

There should be mechanisms in place to investigate breaches of the Code, although these can vary depending on the processes put in place by the local authority; these might include the creation (or maintenance) of a Standards Committee, but this is not a requirement.

…because Shropshire Council does have a Standards Committee, even though it takes the bit highlighted in red as the start and end of its commitment, in a sort of: “Oh, OK, thanks, we’ll take that and interpret it in the loosest way possible” which, in Shropshire Council’s book, means relaxed to the point of indolence.

Likewise, as if the report’s authors were familiar with Shropshire Council’s approach to minor irritants like literal interpretations of standards and codes of conduct, the adoption of a Standards Committee was done with fingers crossed behind backs because…

The presumption that hearings should be held in public.

Well you can forget that!

Not only do SC hold their hearings in closed session, they won’t even identify who the action is being taken against, as evidence the case of a Member who was “alleged” to have lobbied one of the planning committees on behalf of someone she knew!

So what price the expectations enshrined in ‘The Seven Principles of Public Life’ (also known as the Nolan Principles)?

…integrity, objectivity, selflessness, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership – were first articulated by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in 1995. The principles are not a general moral code, but a set of ethical responsibilities that outline the expectations of public office.

Well, what about them?

In the case of Shropshire Council, where those expectations are quite low, the presumption is that in the absence of outright criminality (and even then at a push) the presumption of innocence should prevail, and that even when found guilty the accused should not be expected to carry the burden of that guilt by being named and – heaven forbid – shamed into mending their ways.

In fact the presumption goes further, in that unless the outright criminality involves aggravating factors that can’t be ignored, then the presumption is to give the benefit of the teeniest weeniest doubt, however arguable.

For the record, “aggravating factors” are when financial or other personal loss is involved, which sort of rules out those pesky nebulous ethical responsibilities that the general public still naively take to be the expectations of public office because, after all, whilst it’s alright pointing the finger, if you can’t actually put your finger on something and squash the life out of it, it doesn’t count for much. It certainly isn’t something the police would get out of bed for. (see #24. When the burden of proof is on trial.)

Well, it’s a view that certainly makes for a quieter life for Monitoring Officers, even those who, in what were once regular briefings on ‘Standards’, insisted that regardless of any arguments to the contrary, what should always be uppermost in the minds of Elected Members is “public perception”.

Attending a number of briefings given by the Monitoring Officers of neighbouring Local Authorities, I (used to the reality not quite meeting what was being said) asked if they genuinely believed what they were saying in this regard and was asked why I asked that question. I cited a number of instances (all of them related in these blogs over the years) and eyebrows were raised, but my query was answered in the affirmative, quite strongly actually. Answering the question what local authority I was from, in one case got the response: “For god’s sake don’t repeat what I’ve just said!” That got a knowing laugh from some of those present.

And it isn’t just Shropshire Council (although it does tend to get a mention quite often). Every edition of Private Eye has pages of the stuff in its regular feature ‘Rotten Boroughs’.

One issue that is particularly irritating is the failure of Monitoring Officers (and Shropshire’s isn’t alone in this) to insist that councillors give details of political sponsorship in their legally required ‘declarations of interest’, some local authorities do and some don’t, and the reason given by Shropshire Council – that a councillor’s “political sponsorship is obvious from their stated political allegiance” – is disingenuous to the point of being downright dishonest, because every candidate standing for election for a named political party is sponsored in the form of their election expenses and back-office support.

NOTE: As an Independent I am indebted to NO ONE except the voters who continue to re-elect me on the basis of my constituency record.

Again, we find ourselves talking about what’s true within the letter of the law but NOT the spirit of the law: that nothing should be taken for granted, especially not when it comes to public perception, something that Shropshire Council’s legal department makes much of in public but are a bit coy about when challenged.

Still, they do come into their own at election time, except…

I recently circulated an email asking a general question of all Members about what they thought the prospects were for our seeing the regular local elections in May this year (2021), particularly whether anyone saw the prospect of a wholly postal vote to get around the logistical problems presenting by the Covid pandemic.

I got a response from Council Leader (of the Ruling Group) Peter Nutting which said that they were waiting on confirmation from central government on the form any such election would take. A postal vote wasn’t ruled out and therein lay the concern that had prompted my question – except that it wasn’t just concern, it was bloody real fear of a repeat of what had happened at the 2017 local elections!

My response to Peter Nutting’s reply was…

Thanks Peter, the point was to at least open up the subject in order to inform the decisions of current and potential Shropshire Council members.

I’m glad I did because it’s obvious from the replies so far that there has indeed been an exchange of conversations which, if shared at the time, would have gone some way (albeit not very far) to inform everyone likely to be involved in this year’s local elections, even if it was just to confirm the uncertainty that we now all take for granted.

As I intimated to Pauline (Dee, leader of the Independent group at the late Shirehall) in an earlier email, I have particular concerns about the administration of the 2017 local elections which I don’t want to see repeated – nothing to do with my own election because I was re-elected with a significantly increased majority – when there was confusion in some (particularly but not exclusively the elderly) postal voter’s minds over what to do with the parish council voting returns; I had empirical evidence of voter’s having been so confused by the lack of clear instruction on how to return the parish voting forms that they simply threw them away.

Voters had been told to put the county council voting slips into the envelope clearly marked for that purpose and seal it. There was no such instruction for the parish council voting slips and so, rather than enclose that slip with the voter ID form in the larger, clearly marked for anything but a postal voting slip return envelope, they threw it away.

The result for the Highley Ward was so close that recounts were held. One parish councillor of 30 years standing lost his place by 2 votes!

I was first made aware of what had happened in an informal discussion over the outcome. The person I was talking to said they hoped what they’d done hadn’t affected the outcome.

Puzzled, I asked why.

They’d opted for a postal vote because they’d been away on holiday during the elections and, in the absence of clear instructions and unsure of what to do with the parish return they’d thrown it away. OK, I dismissed it as of no consequence, it was one vote. It happens. But in the context of a losing margin of two votes? Hence their concern. This was an intelligent, professional woman in her 40’s.

Now, as exceptions often do prove the rule I decided to ask around. I didn’t have to spend too much time asking because when I asked if she knew how the elderly residents in her care had coped with the postal vote, the local Housing Support Officer said that one of her elderly residents was worried that they’d “get into trouble” for having discarded their parish voting slip because they had, following the “clear” instructions about what to do with the county council envelope, been left with nowhere else to put the parish slip, that I realised there could have been a real issue. It proved not to be the only instance.

So I looked into it and found clear guidance to Monitoring Officers on the Electoral Commission website advising them that, in their instructions to voters, they should not assume that everyone would know what to do and how to do it. I forwarded that guidance to Claire Porter (Shropshire Council Monitoring Officer with responsibility for elections) who did not take kindly to it.

So if we do end up with a postal vote across the board I’d like to see the instructions to voters couched in plain English in terms that allow no possibility of doubt because the 2017 outcome should not be allowed to happen again.


Dave Tremellen

Member for Highley Division of Shropshire Council

Answer came there none. At the time of bringing to her attention that serious flaw in the way that postal votes had been administered, Claire Porter more or less accused me of lying in order to make ‘political capital’. And as for the clear guidance to Returning Officers by the Electoral Commission (hardly the most political of government institutions), which I’d produced to support my case, she dismissed it, ‘summarily’ comes to mind!

Begs the question: ‘OK, so if standards do indeed matter, is it really a question of by how much and to whom?’

Appears so.

County Councillor’s Report

(First published in the Highley Forum January 2021 edition.)

Happy New Years all round.

Well, we got here, eventually, but by golly what a trip it’s been, uphill all the way to get to 2021, let’s hope it’s now a steady, even run and that cresting the hill after the uphill bit doesn’t lead into it all going downhill because, for sure, there’s a lot of change on the way and not all of it for the better.

Covid aside, on the Shirehall front, until we’re sure about the impact of the vaccine on re-opening business as near as possible to normal, with the local elections still – as far as anyone knows – scheduled for May, whether the talked about changes to the way the county council runs will still happen is in the hands of the gods.

As I’ve said in earlier articles, the various statements of intent that have come from the Shirehall Executive need to be considered in the light of events that have happened in previous years, especially because we’ve seen earlier policies completely overturned by a change in personalities at the top proving, as always in politics at any level, that even a week is a long time in politics.

But it’s what is happening at a national level that will see us impacted the most, especially the proposed changes to planning legislation. Within days of your reading this article a survey will be dropping through your door asking for your opinion on “affordable housing” in a scheme called ‘Right Home, Right Place’, what it won’t tell you is what worries me the most.

We already know that we have a lot of local people desperate for an affordable house, a better house, no argument there, an affordable house is a good thing, what isn’t always so good is the place where such houses are built, the 20 affordable houses behind the telephone exchange being a case in point. With an access opening onto a bend in the main road just along from the brow of Benn’s Bank, the children from those 20 family homes will be heading for school across a stretch of road generally acknowledged to be one of the most dangerous in the village!

In response to my pleading for the safety of those children, the planning committee placed a condition on those 20 houses stating that they should not be occupied until a suitable crossing point has been established. The developers have been given the go ahead to start work despite there being no crossing point and none in prospect. Logic is there none!

Looks like fingers crossed for 2021 then.

Dave Tremellen. January 2021.