At last, the message is getting out there. Understandably, it’s taken time to filter out, but that’s no surprise given how quietly the Shirehall Establishment has slipped things out under cover of Covid-19.
(See #69: Is Democracy Dead Or Just Taken Apart And Put Back Together With Some Bits Missing?)
This gives you an idea of how profound the changes at Shirehall will be – EVERYTHING is changing, and not just from the point of view of how Shirehall staff will be working.
As I’ve said many times in the past, the days when a local councillor or parish clerk could just pick up a phone and speak to the person they needed to speak to are long gone, as are the times when a councillor could just knock on an office door and spend a few minutes discussing a local issue with the head of a department and get something sorted on the spot. Nowadays you need to know your way around a labyrinth you can’t see to get a pointer in the direction you should be heading in.
Eventually, it will be the normal way of working but I suspect that as far as the general public go their expectation will be that everything is still as it was a few years back and their frustration will grow before the realisation kicks in that things have actually changed and will stay changed however hard they refuse to accept it. I guess that in that regard the move away from Shirehall will finally bring it all home.
It’s happening now, in a recent case a local couple were so convinced that I wasn’t doing “enough” that they by-passed me to go directly to the planning department, only to get the answer I’d given their neighbour, with whom I’d exchanged a number of emails and telephone calls; another couple wrote to MP Philip Dunne only to get a reply that referred them to the “cogent arguments in Dave Tremellen’s submission to the planning committee.”
It’s harder to get across an argument in support of the community you represent nowadays because it’s easier for officers to ignore local opinion, national planning policies having given local authority planning officers far more power than they’ve ever had before.
But I’ve explained all of that in some detail in my blog articles.
Look at what’s happening in Bridgnorth with the Stanmore and Tasley developments, all of that has happened despite ALL six of the local councillors involved (William Parr, Les Winwood, Christian Lee, Michael Wood, Elliot Lynch, Robert Tindall) being Conservative and loyal to the ruling group (with the possible exception of Robert Tindall, who resigned the Tory whip because he insisted there wasn’t enough south of the county representation on Peter Nutting’s Cabinet – there still isn’t, but hey).
No one has been more critical of these changes than me, especially the way elected representatives have been effectively sidelined by both the interim Chief Executives addressing ‘news’ of staffing changes to salaried officers only, with elected councillors copied-in only as a courtesy. Peter Nutting has encouraged that approach, dismissing what few criticisms there have been with a shrug. But then, as a Shrewsbury councillor his position is safe as long as he continues to look after Shrewsbury!
There is more change to come, without a doubt, not least the closing down and sale of Shirehall. I’ve come to terms with the fact that between now and the terminal closure of Shirehall in 2023 nothing is going to be easy, especially if you don’t know your way around the virtual new world – names will just be names, featureless profile pictures will be the fixed image of what at one time would have been an animated face giving off body language that often spoke louder than words.
Welcome to President Pete’s New World Order.