Shirehall Cabinet (not to be confused with the grown up version in Downing Street, although it could do with an equally rigorous shake-up) recently announced a major change in policy through its preferred channel of communication – the Shropshire Star, so when I say that I keep up to date with any major change in Shirehall Cabinet policy by keeping my eye on the local media, anyone who thinks I’m joking should have a serious re-think because I’m not.
But never mind councillors, even some senior council officers didn’t know about the change in policy, and they’re the ones tasked to implement policy. It’s come to something when the first they know about it is in the local press.
Whilst it’s good to know we have a Shirehall Cabinet capable of making decisions, the chosen method of communicating those decisions is hardly a ringing endorsement of the policy of “inclusion, transparency and accountability” that our new Council Leader assured us would be a characteristic of his administration.
The major change in policy involves an easing of the ridiculously inadequate time-scale originally given to town and parish councils to decide which of the local non-statutory services to support financially when Shropshire Council withdraws its funding. Instead of having to make their decisions by September of this year (in order for the cuts to start taking effect from April 2017), they have been given another twelve months to calculate the amount they must levy on their local community through their share of the council tax, the town or parish ‘precept’.
On the matter of short notice, I said in my councillor’s report to Highley parish council back in February:
“I’ve raised the point at [the Performance Management] Scrutiny Committee that Parish Councils were not given the full implications of the cuts in central government funding BEFORE they set their Council Tax precepts. That, in my book, was a criminal oversight.”
Well, the powers-that-be have come to the conclusion that everyone else came to within hours of being given that original September ultimatum – that the timescale was wildly unrealistic!
[At this point, anyone new to this blog ought really to read blog post #23 ‘The Villages of the Damned’.]
Right, if you’ve just read that post you’ll know of the universal anger at the off-hand way Shirehall Cabinet managed (and I use that word reservedly) the proposed cuts to community services. For once I was not alone in my desperately expressed frustration at the ineptitude of the self-chosen few who see it as their divine right to determine the amount of misery they inflict on others and then prescribe the way in which that misery should be dealt with.
And don’t even think about giving credit to the Shirehall Cabinet for any generosity of spirit in granting that reprieve because the means to achieve it has always been there, by using just a fraction of their considerable reserves, something I was once leapt on for suggesting in a relatively informal ‘corridor conversation’; had I suggested it in the more formal setting of a committee I’d have been taken out and strung up from The Column!
And those amongst you with a more generous heart than mine, tempted to see this change of policy (I nearly said change of heart there) as a demonstration of Shirehall Cabinet’s willingness to listen, should take note that the original timescale would have seen the start of the implementation of “the cuts” begin in April 2017. The significance of that? The local council elections are in May 2017. Works wonders!