County Councillor’s Report
First appeared in the February edition of the Highley Forum.
Back in September 2014 I wrote…
Perhaps democracy is increasingly irrelevant to people’s daily lives.
I was talking then about the way changes at Shropshire Council were impacting on the way the council engaged with the people of Shropshire, although more accurately I should say increasingly disengaged with the people of Shropshire, a process that, if anything, has increased since then.
There are still a lot of people who persist in thinking that “the council” is still what they’ve always thought of as “the council” – it ain’t!
When, in 2009, the old district councils and county council became a single unitary council, changing from a committee system to one known as (and I kid you not) ‘Strong Leader Plus Cabinet’, Shropshire Council has increasingly become what I would call a “Service Director led administration”, where the directors of service departments, in close partnership with consultants, no longer just advise the elected councillors in the Cabinet but determine policy which is rubber-stamped by Cabinet portfolio holders and presented to ‘Full Council’ (which no longer meets monthly) where it is voted through by the majority of votes of the ruling group from which Cabinet is drawn.
Directors of Service and consultants are not answerable – and certainly not accountable – to the electorate whose lives they influence and who have to drive over the roads they have allowed to deteriorate to the point of absolute misery, adding insult to injury by forcing the electorate who pay the taxes that pay their salaries and consultancy fees to then pay for the resulting damage caused by their failure to do the job they’re employed to do.
For years the North Shropshire MPs and North Shropshire councillors who are nine of the ten members of the Cabinet have campaigned for the North West Relief Road around Shrewsbury. (Those of an uncertain disposition who have paid for new tyres and/or wheels try to contain yourselves.)
‘The Department of Transport has agreed to give £54m towards the construction of Shrewsbury’s north-west relief road, with work expected to start in 2022.’
‘The full cost of the road is estimated at £71m, with the council to provide any remaining funds.’
[My note: Do the sums: £71m – £54m = £17m of OUR money.]
‘Steve Davenport, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “The North West Relief Road will benefit not just Shrewsbury but the whole of Shropshire…”’
Define “whole”. There is an argument for the NWRR, but there is an over-riding argument for the roads in the rest of Shropshire to be addressed with more than a passing sympathetic remark and an explanation of how cash-strapped the Authority is and therefore, “sorry, (forced smile, slight tilt of the head to one side and a shrug of the shoulders) you’ll have to wait a bit longer”.
Our MP (Philip Dunne, a nice chap) has just stepped up to the mark on behalf of South Shropshire. A little late, but welcome aboard Philip. Let’s see if anything changes on the B4555.
16 January 2020