Reportage from Ludlow Advertiser
Ludlow Advertiser reports
Above: Peter Phillips presents Schools Minister David Laws with the formal Complaint at a LibDem event in Birmingham.
A formal complaint over Shropshire Council’s controversial schools closures has been tabled to Schools Minister David Laws. The complaint is being lodged by retired LibDem Leader Peter Phillips, and Shropshire Councillors Heather Kidd and Nigel Hartin.
‘Researching all this, I have to say, re-kindled my anger at the disdain and half-truths to which the public was treated by the Council,’ said Mr Phillips. ‘The chances of a ministerial intervention are always remote, but I am clear that there are issues to be looked at – and David Laws has a formidable reputation.’
The Complaint asserts, in sum, that the council failed to comply with Statutory Guidance on Schools Closures.
‘I have been involved in two phases of schools closures,’ said Cllr Kidd. The pain, the anger and often the despair was appalling. The very least one could have expected was proper process and clear responses. We didn’t have that.’
‘The Council’s assault on rural schools was shameful, said Cllr Hartin,’ There have already been two waves of closures, so it is quite likely that another is being brewed. I hope this Complaint may come as a warning shot.’
Contact Peter Phillips 01588 650 625
Heather Kidd 01938 561 651
Nigel Hartin 01547 530 400
The complaint is supported by the Nat Association of Small Schools(Contact: Mervyn Benford.)
The building of more flood defences is no answer. Their effect is short term, as worse and more frequent storms arrive, and spatially they tend simply to shunt the floods on to places downstream.
What is needed is an urgent, wide-scale programme of flood abatement, whereby water is retained in the ground rather than flowing over it to rivers. There are 2 simple and proven strategies:
One is ‘buffer strips’ alongside watercourses, where there is no grazing. The effect is pretty well immediate. Surface water will be absorbed into these ungrazed strips as into a blotter.
Secondly, afforestation within catchment areas. Woodlands hold huge amounts of water. Beneficial effects may be observed within a decade or two.
The problem is, how is this to be achieved?
In most of England, at least, County Councils have the responsibility of ‘leading’ on Floods but few powers or funds. Clearly,strategies like those above require strong powers of direction, at least, and as a ‘carrot’. compensation to landowners for the loss of grazing(or as an encouragement to take steps.) Yet, typically, no such powers or funds are available. Initiatives are small scale and piecemeal, funds are often through ostensibly other routes - eg the Clun freshwater mussel(ask me more!), not for flood abatement.
There have been at least 4,maybe more, ‘1 in 100 years’ floods since 2000. Time is not our friend in answering this threat.
COUNCILLOR CHARLOTTE BARNES, who has just become Chair of Bishop’s Castle Lib Dems, presents Peter Phillips with a Christmas gift. ’It is from all the branch, recognising Peter’s great work since he founded the branch in 1973.’
‘Forty years is a long time,’ smiled Peter, ’and I am delighted that we have someone as fantastic as Charlotte to take the baton.’
A local Lib Dem branch is celebrating the Season by recruiting its 100th member.
Alexandra Uttley, from Stiperstones, has become the 100th member of Bishop’s Castle Lib Dems—yet until recently she was a firm Conservative!
‘I have been convinced above all by the hard work of the Lib Dems locally, ’she said,’ and especially of our local councillor, Heather Kidd. I am going to put my support behind her and her party. One has to respect a party which inspires so much local commitment to residents.’
‘Two years ago we had about 20 members, ’smiled recruitment officer Peter Phillips, ’so since retiring I have gone on a recruitment drive! And the terrific response from local supporters has been most rewarding.’
Chirbury and Worthen Councillor, Heather Kidd, said: ‘It’s wonderful to have Alex on board. We need the energy of younger people. Alex has always been interested in politics. I hope she will inspire others to step forward.’