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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Source: Shropshire Liberal Democrats