Farmers Warned on Grant Rip Off

Meanwhile elsewhere in Shropshire…

FARMERS WARNED OF GRANT RIPOFF

Two Councillors are warning Shropshire Farmers to be on the lookout for a Grant scam following a spate of incidents along border counties over the last few years.

Heather Kidd, Shropshire Councillor for Chirbury and Worthen said "Farmers are being warned to be on the alert for fraudsters aiming to get their hands on key European Union grant payments being made this month.

"The criminals typically pose as a bank or other financial institution, occasionally the police. They call their intended victims claiming that a fraud has been detected on their account and then persuade them to hand over financial information or ask them to transfer money to what they claim is a 'safe account'.

"Although this sounds too obvious a con, it's surprising how many people fall for it. Last year at this time several farmers in my area were contacted by such fraudsters. Now we have been warned by West Mercia police to be on the look out again."

Cllr Richard Huffer (Clee Hill Division) who farms in Bitterley and on Clee Hill added " Unfortunately information about those in receipt of the funds – including their name and how much they are to be paid – is publically available, which allows criminals to directly target victims, making the con more convincing. At this time of year payments begin to arrive into bank accounts, through the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) which is the EUs main rural payment scheme and the conmen target the activities accordingly.

""It is vital that farmers, and other recipients of the payment, are alert to these scams and are very wary of any phone calls, texts or emails out of the blue asking for personal or financial information, or to transfer money to another account. If you do get any calls of this nature hang up and contact your bank and the police."

Both Councillors are now launched a campaign using websites, e-mails and social media to alert farmers of the dangers.

End

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Tory Council Leader Resigns

Meanwhile elsewhere in Shropshire…

It had to happen and I am glad that it has happened sooner rather than later. Keith Barrow has resigned as council leader following years of concern about conflicts of interest over his business affairs. Complaints have been made and upheld through the council's standards procedure. More have been submitted in the last few days. At least one complaint has been sent to West Mercia police for investigation. There has also been growing dissatisfaction over Keith Barrow's leadership style, which has concentrated power with himself and a few lieutenants.

Now he has resigned..

First, let's begin with some of the good things Keith achieved in his six years as council leader. He established a university college in Shrewsbury. He handled the baby ashes scandal well.

But the main mark Keith Barrow has left on this county is the creation of a centralised, out of touch administration in Shirehall. He has left people working in local government feeling devalued and he has deskilled the council. He has left residents, especially here in the south distrusting, even hating, Shropshire Council.

Back in 2007, voters in Shrewsbury & Atcham, Bridgnorth and South Shropshire voted against a unitary authority in a countywide referendum. Many of the district councillors nevertheless pressed for unitary status. I know that some of those councillors never foresaw what was to happen.

When Shropshire Council was launched as a unitary authority on April Fool's Day 2009, it adopted the "strong leader" model. This gave huge powers to the leader and the cabinet. The only leader of Shropshire Council to date has been Keith Barrow, the Conservative councillor for Oswestry South.

Keith began well. He wanted to talk and engage with people. He met people in pubs. He argued the case. That doesn't mean I agreed with him on policy but he had the popular touch.

Then it began to change. I recall his words the first time I saw him in action at Cabinet, sometime around 2011. He turned to Alan Mosley, leader of the Labour group and, after declaring that he didn't think local government should be political, launched a political attack. And that is the way it is on Shropshire Council. Political. This is the most political local council I have known in my 40 odd years of observing local government.

From around 2012, Keith began to withdraw from open democracy and debate.

Back in September 2013, I complained that Shropshire Council was slipping into a black hole of democracy.

Consultations were often a sham. Remember the two consultations over the closure of the Coder Road recycling centre? Both were unanimously against closure. It didn't make any difference. The portfolio holder, Steve Charmley, did not even come to Ludlow to talk about what was proposed. The decision to close Coder Road was made in a private session in Shirehall from which the public and press were excluded.

Full council meetings were cancelled and then reduced in number. Keith said there wasn't sufficient business but that was because decisions were made in private portfolio holder meetings.

Scrutiny committees are chaired by Conservatives and only by Conservatives. In other councils, scrutiny committees are often chaired by opposition councillors. They scrutinise. In Shropshire, most scrutiny committees spend their time talking but not scrutinising. For the last year, there has been a move to shrink the number of scrutiny committees down to just one.

In other councils, opposition councillors can get matters on the council agenda. We have to resort to councillor questions or motions.

Senior officers have been told they cannot brief opposition councillors unless specifically requested to do so by those councillors. If you do not know what is happening, how can you ask a question?

Times are hard. We are facing savage cuts. We need to work together as councillors, not in the divisive way that was the only way possible during Keith's regime.

Keith Barrow has centralised power on himself. And if you elevate yourself high, you have further to fall.

Andy Boddington

Lib Dem Councillor for Ludlow North

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Shropshire leader forced to resign from council company after conflict of interest scandal

Meanwhile elsewhere in Shropshire…

It is a press release slipped out with minimum of publicity. Visitors to the Shropshire Council Newsroom website are only greeted with the headline: "Shropshire Council Standards Sub-Committee meeting – 20 November 2015." That's a headline designed for boredom. Which is surprising because the news website is run by Three Sixty Communications, a subsidiary of ip&e. Three Sixty has often shown itself to be on the ball when it comes to communication. But ip&e is wholly owned by Shropshire Council. So we shouldn't be surprised that this headline was written to disguise the leadership crisis that is enveloping the council.

Keith Barrow quietly resigned as a director and chairman of ip&e ten days ago. At that point, he must have been aware that the external auditors had determined that he had failed to declare a conflict of interest when appointing Oswestry based auditors to ip&e.

At the time, Keith's resignation looked no different to an outsider from the perpetual turnover of ip&e directors. There have been 14 directors appointed since the company was founded in the summer of 2012. Thirteen directors have resigned. Some directors have lasted no more than two months. Keith Barrow was appointed twice and resigned twice. As did former cabinet member Michael Owen.

There are only three directors left now according to Companies House, cabinet member Steve Charmley and two seconded council officers. I have faith in those officers but this is no way to run a company.

ip&e has always been controversial. Some council staff were excited to transfer to the company. They looked forward to breaking free of the dead hand of bureaucracy that pervades much of Shropshire Council. Many more were nervous and anxious to keep their jobs. There is a lot of very good work going on in ip&e. But whether you agree with the council owning a private company or not, I hope you will agree that the people who work in ip&e don't deserve this chaos.

That chaos is down to the man in charge.

Keith Barrow has long lauded ip&e as the future way of running a council like ours. But, as the standards board said today, he has failed to step up to mark and has shown he cannot work with the integrity expected of a chairman of a publicly owned company. Mr Barrow had failed to declare his personal and business relationship with a director of Oswestry-based D.R.E. & Co, which was appointed accountant and auditor of ip&e.

So for what is the future for Keith Barrow? It is widely known that he applied to be the Conservative candidate for the West Mercia police and crime commissioner. He wasn't selected. Yet his days as leader of Shropshire Council must now be numbered.

Andy Boddington

Lib Dem Councillor for Ludlow North

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BT Slammed for road safety risks

Meanwhile elsewhere in Shropshire…

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Shropshire Councillor Heather Kidd has called for BT Openreach and their contractors to get their finger out and complete roadworks which have already caused one accident and run the risk of causing more.

Heather said "BT and their contractors have always been slow in finishing jobs but now it's getting ridiculous to the point that it is a danger to the public. There have been three sets of work in my division that have been started but taken upwards of six weeks to finish. All are on busy roads and one has already cased a motorcycle crash."

These include:

  1. Work to repair a crumbling grid in Chirbury took months.
  2. In Worthen a motorcyclist ran into an unfinished set of roadworks injuring himself. This had also been left unfinished for several weeks.
  3. To repair the above hole BT took a manhole cover from the Leigh Road about a mile away. The Leigh Road manhole has been uncovered ever since apart from a piece of fencing.
  4. A repair on a manhole on the busy B4386 (see photo) was started almost 6 weeks ago and remains unfinished.

Heather concluded: "Why on earth can't a contractor finish a job when it's started? Why do they have to leave is obstructing traffic for 6 weeks?

"The final straw came today when BT came back to council officers and myself saying that they 'cant find' i.e. lost any reference to these jobs on their system.

"I am exceedingly concerned that Openreach is slap dash and failing in its duty to the public. These are safety issues on heavily used roads. I have contacted BT as I know Council Officers have too. I have stressed that urgent repairs are needed before we have another accident."

End

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COMPLAINTS AS NEW ‘SUPERFAST’ FAILS TO CONNECT.

Meanwhile elsewhere in Shropshire…

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Shropshire Councillor for Chirbury and Worthen , Heather Kidd, is urging Shropshire Councill to review their contract with BT in the light of the poor results of their recent 'superfast broadband' upgrades across the County.

Heather said "In the villages in my part of the world superfast broadband has been a huge disappointment for many. I'm getting complaints in from villages along our valley from Worthen through to Chirbury. Both villages that supposedly went 'live' with Superfast broadband cabinets in September.

ONLY SOME BENEFIT

"Although the new cabinets have delivered for some, many are seeing little or no increase in its performance. The main problem is that many residents are simply not connected to the new broadband cabinets. Instead many, perhaps a majority are still connected to the old fashioned exchange in Chirbury or Worthen using copper wire technology. If they are they simply do not have access to superfast speeds but are stuck with awful broadband performance. In our part of Shropshire 'Superfast' is rapidly becoming a sick joke.

"The next phase in 2017 to villages such as Marton in 2017 doesn't look any more promising as Connecting Shropshire are refusing to say what proportion of properties in these villages will be connected.

EXCHANGE UPGRADE

"It's clear to anyone that until the copper is upgraded or homes are connected directly to the Cabinets then superfast will simply not happen for many in rural Shropshire.

"Over the past year, the public money invested in the superfast broadband market has seen provision improve across England. However there is still a large swathe of rural areas like parts of Shropshire that are falling behind in the superfast revolution.This is even more pronounced at ward level where in some cases whole villages (such as Priest Weston and Stiperstones) can be cut off from superfast speeds- or indeed any broadband. This digital divide could become even more significant in the near future if hard to reach areas are excluded from the Government's ambition to rollout ultrafast broadband of at least 100Mbps to premises across the country.

"Intelligence gathered by the Local Government Association from councillors across England has suggested that councils are increasingly dissatisfied with the current BT-led deployment model and its associated technologies, which they argue are ill suited to the roll out of superfast broadband to hard to reach rural areas. As the first and second roll out phases edge closer to completion, the sector is approaching a crucial milestone in its efforts to achieve 100% superfast broadband provision.

"BT was paid a huge sum from the European Union (via BDUK) to connect as many properties as possible- up to 98%- not just a selective few. There is a concern that when measuring availability of superfast Broad band it will be measured as the presence of a cabinet and not who can benefit from it.

Given that other companies are quoting the same connection service at a third of the price* for phase 2 of the connection programme, I am strongly urging Shropshire Council to review BTs performance so far on the grounds of both cost and quality."

* Local Government Association, People and Places Board 22nd October 2015

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New Signs for Ludlow

Meanwhile elsewhere in Shropshire…

Vivienne Parry, Councillor for Ludlow South and chair of Ludlow in Bloom, has secured a new set of welcoming road signs for Henley Road and Sheet Road through the generosity of a local business.
Vivienne explained: "Some time ago the original signs were stolen and adjoining flower planters provided by Ludlow in Bloom damaged. This was a terrific shame as these are often the first things that visitors to our town see. Now thanks to the generosity of local firm McConnels this is going to be put right. The signs and currently being manufactured and hopefully will be up in the next few weeks."
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CHARLOTTE SLAMS PARENT FINES.

Meanwhile elsewhere in Shropshire…

Charlotte Barnes, Shropshire Councillor for Bishops Castle, has called on the Education Minister to scrap the current system of fining parents for taking their children on holiday in term time.

Speaking at a meeting of local campaigners on Thursday night she said "Although in principle its right to punish parents who take their children out of school the way that this law is implemented is far too punitive and doesn't take into account the realities of modern life, especially in rural areas such as Shropshire.

"The main problem with the current legislation is that 'one size fits all' with very little leeway. Parents are fined irrespective of the circumstance in many instances. Although some people abused the system in the past taking children out of school repeatedly, we are now hearing of fines being levied on parents out of school for isolated incidents.

"On a wider note, wages in rural communities like ours are low and frequently the only way that parents can afford holidays is to take outside the overpriced height of summer. Work practices in farming, tourism and related industries also frequently do not fit in with school holidays.

"I'm not saying that all fines should be scrapped. Rather they should be uses as a last resort for parents who repeatedly take children out of school for no valid reason. I think heads should be given more discretion to take in local, personal and social reasons when deciding who should or should not be fined. One week should not be a problem for most children's education." .

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COUNCIL TO LOBBY GOVERNMENT ON YOUTH TRAVEL.

Meanwhile elsewhere in Shropshire…

Charlotte Barnes, Lib Dem .Shropshire Councillor for Bishops Castle, has persuaded Shropshire Council to lobby the Government to give Shropshire Youth the same deal on buses as their Welsh Counterparts.

Charlotte said "Young people in Wales aged 16-18 will shortly only have to pay 2/3rds of the full fare on buses following legislation introduced by the Welsh Government

"This will prove a huge bonus for young people in rural areas of Wales like Powys. It will enable them to be able to travel at a reasonable price and have a similar social life to their urban counterparts. Why haven't we got similar provision in England?".

"I have formally asked Cllr Simon Jones, Shropshire Councils Portfolio holder responsible for transport and he has agreed to lobby the Transport Minister for this to be introduced in England too.

"I also know that my colleague Cllr Heather Kidd, who represents Shropshire on The Local Government Association has persuaded its People and Places Board to lobby the Government on the same issue.I think it is only fair that Shropshire's young people get the same treatment as our neighbours in Powys."

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Rally to save Shrewsbury Swimming Pool on Saturday (17th Oct)

Meanwhile elsewhere in Shropshire…

Campaigners will be taking to the streets in Shrewsbury Town Centre in a bid to save the Quarry swimming pool.
Shropshire Council are currently running a consultation on the future of the swimming pool, and options include moving the pool to an out of town location such as Sundorne Sports Village. Many townspeople are against the proposal to move the pool, and the Quarry Swimming and Fitness Forum are organising a protest march.
Rally – Saturday 17th October
The rally will be held on Saturday 17th October, starting at the top of Pride Hill at 11 am. Everyone is welcome to attend the march through town, which will finish in the Quarry Park by the swimming pool.
Cllr Hannah Fraser said 'I hope lots of people will join the march on Saturday and show the Council how much support there is for keeping the pool in the town centre"

For further information contact Hannah Fraser 07527 006625.

Photo: Cllr Hannah Fraser campaigning on pool. .

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COUNCILLOR CALLS FOR RETHINK AFTER RECYCLING SLUMP

Meanwhile elsewhere in Shropshire…

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Shropshire Councillor Vivienne Parry (Ludlow South) has called on waste Collectors Veolia and Shropshire Council to get its act together after the latest figures showed waste collection falling across the county.

Vivienne said "Here in Ludlow we have a proud tradition of recycling. The old South Shropshire District Council had the second highest recycling rate in England (54%) ten years ago and it pioneered new technology like the anaerobic digester to deal with food waste.

"Now we have a position where our recycling site for large items at Corder Road has gone and we still have not got cardboard recycling. It is hardly surprising that our recycling figures are going down."

Shropshire Council figures published this week show a decline to 51%

PEANUTS

Vivienne continued "And what is the response from Veolia and Shropshire Council to encourage more recycling? A £6,000 publicity campaigns – absolute peanuts when you consider that this is a multi million pound contract. This is a rather futile whilst at the same time the council is cutting back on the facilities that allow residents to recycle.

"Every drop in recycling means an increase in landfill tax and that costs the taxpayer money.

"The money spent on glossy leaflets would be much better spent giving residents a better service i.e. providing a full range of doorstep recycling including food waste and cardboard and keeping waste sites like Coder Road open. Collections and centres of this kind are now the norm across the vast bulk of councils across the UK

"I'm also coming across numbers of new residents to the area who are just not being informed of our recycling system or collection dates, which is appalling."

Vivienne has written to Stephen Charmley , the Shropshire Council Cabinet member respomsible for recycling asking: 1. For a breakdown of the costs of the publicity campaign, 2. Its objectives in terms of increased recycling and 3. What is the Council's policy on informing new residents about Shropshire's recycling policy.

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