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INTRODUCTION.

Well, ‘instructions’ might be more accurate because this blog platform doesn’t make navigating around the articles easy. You can progress through the dates easily enough, but only sequentially by hitting 'Read More' at the bottom of the page. If you’re looking to go back to an earlier month or year then you have to enter the month or year in the search section at the top of the page and hit your ‘Enter’ key. Likewise, if you want to avoid having to follow through sequentially and get to a later date then, again, enter that date in the search function and hit your ‘Enter’ key.

AUGUST 2020: "I do hope it’s a cunning plan, otherwise gawd help us."

Despite recently spending £380,000 on consultants to advise the council on Shirehall’s refurbishment, the ‘For Sale’ signs have once again gone up on that somewhat brutish structure (although I’m rather fond of it) at the top of Abbey Foregate in Shrewsbury, with the Establishment already moving many of its functions into the spare rooms of council officers and councillors. It’s been pretty much inevitable since 2013, when council offices at Stonehouse in Ludlow and Westgate in Bridgnorth closed down, officers even then either ‘hot-desking’ or operating from home or from their car, the Executive’s ambition for the wholesale move to a remote, virtual council only slowed by the poor-to-non-existent broadband coverage over great swathes of the county, particularly in the west. But everything comes to he who waits and six years later along came Covid-19. On Friday 22 May 2020 elected Members were absent-mindedly copied-in to the daily Covid-19 “up-dating” email to all salaried

JULY 2020: On the new way of working and good people

Well, the “new way of working” is still taking time to dig in, giving rise to some pretty strange sights of councillors who have yet to realise that the camera on their council laptop is broadcasting to the world that they’re having a problem coming to terms with the reality that they are still, even at a distance, AT an official meeting. I was “at” a meeting on Monday of Members of the West Mercia Police & Crime Panel, drawn from local authorities across the West Mercia area, and at various times we had one of them studying reports by holding them up in front of his face, another leaning forward so that all we could see of him was his ear, and another who kept getting up and walking away to open the door to let out and later to let in what looked like a small dog – he did that several times over the course of the three hour meeting. It has taken me a while to understand why these virtual meetings are so much more tiring (not tiresome, tiring, despite the above) t

JUNE 2020.

Overwhelmed with “issues”; tempers strained and frustrations fanned by Facebook; gangs of ne’er-do-wells intent on stealing anything that isn’t nailed down; old-enough-to-know-betters on scrambler bikes churning up footpaths; cyclists blaming horse-riders for taking up the full width of bridleways (how very dare they) and not picking up after their horses, and don’t they know the mess a pile of horse dung can make of an expensive mountain bike… And that’s just for starters. I’m determined not to mention people “exercising” across farmland with their dogs off the lead and telling irate farmers that their dogs didn’t mean to kill the lamb, it was only playing with it - so I won’t. Let’s talk instead of the fabulous work the people of Highley and surrounding areas have been doing to keep the vulnerable of this village fed and watered, and not just those volunteer errand-runners who are part of the formal set up, but the informal neighbour-to-neighbour “You alright? Let m

MAY 2020: On the reaction to those 20 ‘affordable’ houses

My last report generated quite a bit of comment on the local Facebook pages, but no one appreciated the full significance of the decision to allow those 20 ‘affordable’ houses intended for the site alongside the bridleway behind the telephone exchange. Understandable because there was a lot of smoke and mirrors involved in the process because the underlying sensitivity of this site lies in the impact any decision to refuse would have on Council plans for the larger site to the north. Another refusal for that smaller site, especially on the grounds of “over-development” outlined by earlier Planning Inspectors, would call into question Shropshire Council’s plans for the much larger neighbouring site on the other side of the bridleway for 122 houses, a single housing development equal to every housing development we’ve seen built since 2013; that’s another Hitchens Way, another Staley Grove, another St Peters View and Whittles Close. As I said in April, I was particularly ang

APRIL 2020: ‘Right Homes’ in the ‘Wrong Place’

Apart from the accursed potholes, what has kept me engaged up to the Forum’s mid-month deadline has been the planning application for 20 affordable homes on the site to the right of the bridlepath that runs behind the telephone exchange. When it first landed on my desk, the first thing that came to mind was the principle of community engagement alluded to in a Shropshire Council initiative called ‘Right Homes, Right Place’, an initiative we councillors and all parish councils have been encouraged to promote in our communities. Now if we take that initiative at its word, even if these 20 ‘affordable homes’ were indeed the ‘Right Homes’ they are unfortunately in the ‘Wrong Place’, as evidence a 534-signature petition opposing development in this sensitive area. Those 534 Highley residents are not alone in considering development of this site inappropriate. When several earlier applications for this site have been refused permission, Inspectors have made the poin

MARCH 2020: £130,000 + £380,000 = £510,000

£130,000 + £380,000 = £510,000 Nice work if you can get it. Bit late for me to scramble onto the consultancy bandwagon, though, even with an Upper Second Honours degree in Business Studies I’ve spent too long in the real world to convince potential clients that I’m the right person to tell them what they want to hear rather than the truth. A lifetime ago, after graduating, I looked into going into business consultancy with an ex-copper friend, Ron, who I’d been at college with and the name we decided on was ‘NBS Consultancy’, the first initial standing for ‘No’ . But Ron’s circumstances changed and the idea was dropped, although I did do two and a half years freelance work for various local and central government agencies, but soon tired of finding myself sitting on the opposite side of some executive’s desk, dying to tell him (women execs were usually more switched on) that he was actually the problem he’d called me in to try and find! As far as the recent furore over S