Shrewsbury Ark goes outreach to tackle rough sleeping but let’s not forget the hidden homeless

On a recent night, I was contacted on Facebook about a 16-year old sleeping rough on the streets of Shrewsbury. This young woman was vulnerable and needed safeguarding. I advised my Facebook contact to take the youngster to Shrewsbury Ark, a drop in centre for the homeless and vulnerable. Once there, she was re-engaged with the support network from Shropshire Council that had been trying to help her. She is now in a hostel and I hope that she gets the help she needs.

This youngster had dropped through the system. It is very hard to engage with council officials and family, and even with friends, when your life has plummeted into the crisis that is homeless. That’s why the help given by the Shrewsbury Ark is so important.

Now, the Shrewsbury Ark is going to do a lot more to help rough sleepers.

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Shropshire Council rejects plea to explore views on a council tax referendum

At the Shropshire Council meeting yesterday, councillors debated a motion that would have required Shropshire Council’s officers to research the willingness of people in Shropshire for a referendum on a council tax rise above 1.99%. The motion was put forward by myself and seconded by follow Lib Dem Hannah Fraser, who represents Abbey ward in Shrewsbury.

The motion arose from calls from town and parish councils for Shropshire Council to raise council tax to avoid huge rises in parish precepts. Ludlow Town Council’s mayor has been vocal in calling for a rise in council tax to prevent the burden for services that serve a wide area falling on Ludlow ratepayers alone.

Regrettably, the motion was all but lost.

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Ludlow Library opening hours cuts are wrong – it should remain open on Saturday afternoons

Shropshire Council has published the results of its Library opening hours review.

The library will close on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons, but get an extra hour on Monday evenings.

I am very disappointed that the cuts to opening hours at Ludlow Library have been largely confirmed. I am quite angry that the library will be closed on Saturday afternoons. This is a busy time for the library. There a lot of people who use its facilities then who have been out at work all week.

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Shropshire Council going to spend £46 million on computers over five years – it’s not justified

This morning my iPad would not get going. The iPad is the only way I can access council emails outside of Shirehall. It has already been fixed three times this year. Last Wednesday, I wanted to access my council emails via a desktop in Shirehall. After 15 minutes, Outlook had not even loaded. I gave up.

These are some of the better aspects of Shropshire Council’s computing systems. Staff currently print details off one computer system and rekey the data into a second system because the council’s aged systems are not compatible. What a waste of effort and money.

The council is now proposing to spend £46 million on computing over five years – £9 million a year – to solve its problems with slow and inadequate computers.

I am totally convinced that the council’s computers need replacing.

But when we are struggling to find money to keep valued services like libraries and leisure centres open, I cannot accept we should spend so much on technology.

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One project a year? Shropshire Council sets risible target for its councillors’ performance

To be an effective councillor you need to read the paperwork and there is a lot of it. I have been reading the small print for Thursday’s full council meeting. That includes Shropshire Council’s draft Corporate Plan. I have comments to make on the details of this plan but one detail of the report stands out by an uncomfortable mile.

Among a portfolio of targets spread over four pages, the Corporate Plan states that elected councillors need only complete one project within their communities each year.

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This is risible. Measures should either be warning indicators, triggering action if they are too high or low, or targets designed to improve performance. One councillor completing one project with their community a year is hardly stretching. It’s a real yawn.

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Tracey Huffer says Philip Dunne MP must champion rural areas in his new role as Health Minister

Guest post from Tracey Huffer, Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow East.

I’d like to congratulate Philip on his appointment as Health Minister.

As an MP representing a rural area, he has a detailed knowledge of how difficult it is to maintain and improve health services outside of urban centres. His appointment is an opportunity to give a voice to rural areas. He has a chance to speak out loudly for isolated communities and market towns like Ludlow, whose residents often have to travel a long way to access routine and specialist health services.

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