Queens Head roadworks & closure in October

David Walker in West Felton

In some welcome news, there are going to be some more substantial roadworks at the Queens Head / Rednal Mile junction in October. Welcome because this junction has been shocking for ages and was particularly dangerous earlier in the year. I have been pressing for a more permanent fix than the usual patching and surface dressing for months.


Full details of the closure can be seen here: https://roadworks.org/?tm=107994753

The roadworks will involve some disruption as the road will be closed for a day. The remainder will be done under traffic lights.

Road closure with diversion

18th – 19th of October 2018

Traffic lights

20th – 23rd of October 2018

This troublesome junction has been a problem for ages, with many fudged repairs and a growing pothole as a result. The pothole covers most of the junction still, as much of the original road surface layers are still missing. The most recent repair of the deepest part of the pothole was the best by far. However, the junction needs plaining – where the top layers are removed and relaid.

plaining of the A5 during the construction of Nescliffe services
Plaining off the A5 during the construction of Nescliffe services when I was setting out the slip roads.

Hopefully, these repairs will put this problem junction to bed for some considerable time to come. However, with the poor record of the previous contractor and with the ongoing £5m/year cuts to roads I will be holding my breath for now.

Queens Head roadworks

Road Closure: Main Street, Queens Head (from the public house to south east of the junction for Queens Head junction to Heath House junction) and 100m approx on Queens Head junction to Heath House junction (from the junction of Main Street).

Start Date: 15th October 2018

End Date: 23rd October 2018

Purpose: Carriageway resurfacing under a road closure from 18/10/18-19/10/18 and 3 way traffic lights from 20/10/18-23/10/18

If anybody has any queries about this closure they can call Customer Services on 0345 6789006, or contact the Street Works Team on streetworks@shropshire.gov.uk.

See also my previous post and video:

Growing traffic & pothole problems vs £5m cuts in roads T

The word is that the £5m cuts will now for 3 consecutive years and not the 2 that I previously reported.

Oswestry Maternity Unit closed for the foreseeable future

David Walker in West Felton

SaTH announced on the 19th of June that the Oswestry Maternity Unit along with the Bridgnorth and Ludlow units were going to remain closed for the foreseeable future. Previously SaTH were seeking people’s views on the temporary suspensions, and whether rotating 4 week suspensions of inpatient services is a ‘Good’ solution to the staff shortages problem. Now they will remain closed until the conclusion of consultations about their future, possibly indefinitely.

Residents, parents and politicians of all colours continue to express outrage at the ongoing Maternity Unit saga. After prolonged closures due to staff shortages at Telford – where expectant and recovering mothers were expected to use Telford or Wrexham units instead – we are now into a new set of extended closures. Many us have said that these closures are designed to run the service down to the point that they can justify permanent closures. This is a tactic that has been used before with Schools, Police, Fire and Ambulance stations to close facilities by stealth.

Repeated suspensions aren’t good for parent’s peace of mind at critical times of pre and post-natal care. Neither are temporary closures on an extended basis. Parents rightly expect to plan ahead and this mess can’t continue. Rural MLUs like Oswestry Maternity Unit should be open 24/7.

It would seem quite obvious that if you put parents off using a service by creating uncertainty, then they will stop using it. Using those reduced numbers to justify a closure is dishonest and disingenuous.

Campaigners have hit out at misleading figures that have been used to justify the closures.

I volunteered as a Marshall for the march from The Bailey Head to Oswestry Maternity Unit last year.
I volunteered as a Marshall for the march from The Bailey Head to Oswestry Maternity Unit last year.

SaTH press release

Temporary suspension of services at Bridgnorth, Oswestry and Ludlow MLUs to continue

19 June 2018

Inpatient services, including births, at Bridgnorth, Oswestry and Ludlow Midwife Led Units (MLUs) are to remain temporarily suspended in order to safely staff the units where most of our mothers are giving birth, as a period of focused engagement with service users begins.

The current suspension of births at the three MLUs will continue until the outcome of a period of engagement is known. This is to ensure the safe care of mums using Shropshire’s maternity services.

The suspension of inpatient services (births and postnatal care) will continue from 8am tomorrow (Wednesday 20 June). All three units will remain open between 8am and 8pm for antenatal and postnatal services.

Women booked to give birth at Bridgnorth, Oswestry and Ludlow MLUs who go into labour during this time will be offered a birth at either Shrewsbury or Wrekin MLU or the Consultant Led Unit at the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford; or they may choose the option of a home birth. If any women due to give birth at Bridgnorth, Oswestry or Ludlow MLU require support during this time they will be able to access a Midwife. All women potentially affected by the suspensions are being contacted.

Sarah Jamieson, Head of Midwifery at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), which runs the MLUs, said: “The circumstances which led to our decision to suspend some services from the 20 May remain unchanged. Unfortunately the issues which have been affecting our maternity service continue. With over 98% of our women giving birth away from our rural MLUs, we are having to deploy our midwives where our mothers are choosing, or are being assessed as needing, to be and ensure that our Consultant Led Unit and our larger Midwife Led Units are safely staffed.

“We are planning a period of focused engagement with our service users, during which time we will be seeking their views and feeding these back to the Trust Board. The time period for the engagement and details regarding how to get involved will be released shortly.

“I must again reiterate that decisions over staffing are made purely on the basis of safety. The safety of women and babies using our maternity services has been, and always will be, our number one priority.

“I would like to apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause.”

Right to Buy not sustainable shock… not

David Walker in West Felton

A new Study by the LGA (Local Government Association) has warned that Right to Buy is at risk of being unsustainable. For many, this won’t be a shock at all, and I would argue this policy hasn’t been sustainable from day 1. This flawed policy has largely been responsible for the current crisis in the supply of affordable housing to buy and social housing to rent.

Let’s be honest Right to Buy has never been sustainable. Nothing wrong with letting tenants buy their homes but they should have let councils build replacement stock from day 1. #socialhousingcrisishttps://t.co/isKI0Cgx96

— David Walker 🔶🐤 #FBPE 🇬🇧🇪🇺 #stopbrexit #ABTV (@piginthepoke) June 11, 2018

First some history…

In the post-war years, Councils undertook a massive house building program to address the then housing crisis. The large-scale Council House building program after the war was a success.

Larger scale Council House building program after the war was a success. Conservative & Labour Governments after the 1980 successively undermined that success
Above is a picture of my Great Grandfather Arthur Harrison, who was Mayor of Bridgnorth in 1945-46, receiving the ceremonial key to the first council house on Syndey Cottage Drive – which my father still possesses.

The Conservative Flagship policy of Mrs Thatcher that allowed Council Tenants to buy their own homes at a heavily discounted rates was flawed from the start… Not just because of the excessive scale of the discount, but more significantly, the fact that they stopped Councils replacing the houses they lost to Right to Buy. Instead, Councils amassed huge capital receipts when they should have been using to build new council housing.

Large Scale Voluntary Transfer of Council Stock to new Social Landlords became the new norm, again with a large discount, in the hope that Social Landlords would fill the void. The Labour Government accelerated Right to Buy and encouraged Large Scale Voluntary Transfers whilst raiding the Capital receipts of well run Council Housing Departments. How much of those capital receipts went into building new housing?

Social Housing Crisis

At its peak in the 70s about 400k social houses were being built by Councils and by private enterprise – roughly 50/50 or 200k each. Fast forward to 1995 and the Council house supply of new houses had all but disappeared with private enterprise building about 150k houses a year right through to 2010.

  • Social Landlords haven’t been able to pick up the slack.
  • Private Developers interest is in maintaining a lack of supply, rising prices and profits, not what society needs.
  • Councils haven’t been able to build new houses.
  • The planning system has systematically failed to deliver enough houses in the right places, of the right size or of the right type.
  • The build rate has plummeted.

The result has been a shrinkage in the supply of housing, particularly affordable housing to buy or rent which has driven up rents and house prices. First-time buyers have largely been priced out of the market and forced into renting or relying on the Bank of Mom and Dad.

All too often, those houses that are being built are the wrong sort and in the wrong places.

There are some excellent graphics that illustrate the problem in Social Housing in this Guardian Article: How did the crisis in UK social housing happen?

More on the LGA report: https://news.sky.com/story/flagship-tory-right-to-buy-council-house-scheme-under-threat-11401333

The Solution

To fix this problem there is no need to scrap Right to Buy and the social mobility that scheme can help to provide, but it does need serious reform.

Instead, factor in:

  • Allow councils, with Government support, to borrow money and build new Council Housing where it is needed, or as part of the often muted new garden cities.
  • Allow these houses to be sold to tenants in Rent to Buy schemes and plough the receipts back into building more houses.
  • Fix the problems in the planning system, whilst still protecting the natural and built environment.
  • Use more environmentally sound construction methods.

That will better contribute to a balanced and more sustainable housing policy.

The last 20 years have shown us that the private sector alone can not possibly be relied upon to solve the social housing crisis or the lack of affordable housing to buy.

House of Fraser to close half of stores

David Walker in West Felton

House of Fraser has announced that they are closing half of their stores, axing 6,000 jobs. Amongst the stores to close are the Flagship Oxford Street Store as well as their stores in Shrewsbury and Telford. Another store in a growing list contacting floor space in the face of increasing cost pressures. A trend that makes Shropshire Councils recent decision to spend £51 million to buy Shopping centres in Shrewsbury look increasingly reckless.

This is very sad news for everybody who is impacted by these closures. I hope they can quickly find suitable alternative employment. Having been laid-off for a protracted period and then made redundant in 2008 I fully sympathise with the concerns and the worry these families will now be facing. Sadly this won’t be the last announcement of this kind.

House of Fraser won’t be the last to contract in this way

House of Fraser is part of a growing list of companies affected by the changes facing the retail sector. The increase of online shopping, threats from changes in consumer spending patterns and Brexit are all causing a contraction in demand for retail floor space as outlined by the Deloitte Retail Trends 2018 released in January.

Increasingly, large retail stores are downsize as they adapt to changing consumer shopping habits and increasing cost pressures
Increasingly, large retail stores are downsizing as they adapt to changing consumer shopping habits and increasing cost pressures

House of Fraser Chief Executive, Alex Williamson, said: “Today’s announcement is one of the most important in this company’s 169-year history… We are fully committed to supporting those personally affected by the proposals.”

Chairman, Frank Slevin, has said the company was facing an ‘existential threat’. “The retail industry is undergoing fundamental change and House of Fraser urgently needs to adapt to this fast-changing landscape in order to give it a future and allow it to thrive. Our legacy stores estate has created an unsustainable cost base, which without restructuring, presents an existential threat to the business.”

Deloitte Retail Trends 2018

“2018 could see a further acceleration in store closures as retailers finally get to grips with transforming their real estate portfolios, to be fit for a market where online continues to outperform the rest of the market.” Deloitte Retail Trends 2018

In the report they highlight figures for last 5 weeks of 2017:

  • Sales Online UP 9.4%;
  • 2/3 spent was on mobile
  • Footfall DOWN 5.5%
  • Sales in store DOWN 4.4%

Shropshire Council has spent £51 million to purchase shopping centres in Shrewsbury.

At a time when services are being pared to the bone, our roads are beginning to look like the moon, retailers are under huge pressure and shopping habits are changing dramatically, buying these retail site is a massive white elephant.

Even if this investment brings in money in the short-term, the long-term downside and risk is significant and represents a poor use of public money to fix a problem of the Conservatives own making. Shropshire Council is facing a £59m shortfall in its finances by 2020.

Shropshire Council faces a £59m shortfall in its finances by 2020
David looking at the funding blackhole with Roger Evans in 2017.

Shropshire Council faces a £59m shortfall in its finances by 2020

That £51m could have been better spent on roads, Street Lights, housing and other key capital projects, at less risk, and with a bigger return on the investment., that could have reduced the burden

Would that money have been better spent directly supporting the 1000s of businesses in the county? Is this really a sound investment?

I would say, yes they should have directly supported businesses across the whole county to stimulate broader growth, and no this £51m isn’t a sound investment. It is a poor use of limited capital reserves that doesn’t do enough to fill in the gaping hole in the Councils revenue budget.

Shropshire Council Chief pay rise of almost 50%

David Walker in West Felton

Like many who saw the headline in the Shropshire Star last Thursday, I was shocked and appalled. Shocked by the scale of the percentage pay rise of nearly 50% and appalled by the amount in cash terms of £47,000.

In cash terms, the £47,000 pay rise is vastly bigger than the £24,200 average annual pay in Shropshire. In fact, the rise is nearly double the average wage. If the recommended rise is accepted the Chief Executive will be paid 6x the average pay in Shropshire.

By contrast, the lowest paid employees at Shropshire Council are paid £16,449 – well under the average for Shropshire. The Chief Executive would be paid over 9x the scale of the lowest. Most employees at Shropshire Hall will be getting a 6% rise.

Thursday’s Full Council Agenda: http://shropshire.gov.uk/committee-services/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=125&MID=3576

In percentage terms, when many hard-working people are still only getting a 1 or 2% pay rises, if they are lucky, this rise of nearly 50% won’t go down well. In PR terms this rise, if approved, will send out all of the wrong messages. It will be a slap in the face for ordinary hard-working people, even if the Chief Executive has earned a pay rise of nearly 50%. IF the chief executive pay is out of step there are better ways of fixing the problem. This pay rise of nearly 50% does little to address pay gaps or inequality in the organisation.

Andy Boddington has done some more to break this down and gives some more background on how Shropshire Council got into this mess on his blog here:

Council chief executive in line for £47K basic pay boost while council staff to get six percent

What this all says about the running of Shropshire Council is up for debate. It doesn’t say much about the past or current corporate governance of the Conservative Administration that they are in this mess. Current priorities like buying Shrewsbury shopping centres or refurbishing Shirehall, all fail to address the black hole in the budget. Symptomatic of broken Shirehall and if it isn’t careful soon to be broke Shirehall.

Shropshire Council Chief’s proposed ~46% pay rise

David Walker in West Felton

Like many who saw the headline in the Shropshire Star last Thursday, I was shocked and appalled. Shocked by the scale of the percentage rise of nearly 46% and appalled by the amount in cash terms of £47,000.

In cash terms, the £47,000 pay rise is vastly bigger than the £24,200 average annual pay in Shropshire. In fact, the rise is nearly double the average wage. If the recommended rise is accepted the Chief Executive will be paid 6x the average pay in Shropshire.

By contrast, the lowest paid employees at Shropshire Council are paid £16,449 – well under the average for Shropshire. The Chief Executive would be paid over 9x the scale of the lowest. Most employees at Shropshire Hall will be getting a 6% rise.

Thursday’s Full Council Agenda: http://shropshire.gov.uk/committee-services/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=125&MID=3576

In percentage terms, when many hard-working people are still only getting a 1 or 2% pay rises, if they are lucky, this rise won’t go down well. In PR terms this rise, if approved, will send out all of the wrong messages. It will be a slap in the face for ordinary hard-working people, even if the Chief Executive has earned it.

Andy Boddington has done some more to break this down and gives some more background on how Shropshire Council got into this mess on his blog here:

Council chief executive in line for £47K basic pay boost while council staff to get six percent

What this all says about the running of Shropshire Council is up for debate. It doesn’t say much about the past or current corporate governance of the Conservative Administration that they are in this mess. Current priorities like buying Shrewsbury shopping centres or refurbishing Shirehall, all fail to address the black hole in the budget. Symptomatic of broken Shirehall and if it isn’t careful soon to be broke Shirehall.

Oswestry Maternity Unit Saga Drags on

David Walker in West Felton

Residents, parents, local Conservatives, Lib Dems & Greens continue to express outrage as the ongoing Oswestry Maternity Unit saga drags on. After a prolonged closure due to staff shortages at Telford – when expectant and recovering mothers were expected to use Telford or Wrexham units instead – we are now into a new set of more temporary closures. This ran for several months last year.

Whilst these suspensions are more than just frustrating for the parents they may also be a cynical ploy to run the service down to the point where the Midwife-Led Units close. Repeated suspensions aren’t good for parent’s peace of mind at critical times of pre and post-natal care. Parents rightly expect to plan ahead and this mess can’t continue. MLUs should be open 24/7.

Oswestry Maternity Unit Saga Drags on. David outside the Oswestry Maternity Unit said: "Parents rightly expect to plan ahead and this mess can’t continue. MLUs should be open 24/7"
David outside the Oswestry Maternity Unit said: “Parents rightly expect to plan ahead and this mess can’t continue. MLUs should be open 24/7”

SaTH is seeking people’s views on temporary suspensions, and whether rotating 4-week suspensions of inpatient services is a ‘Good’ solution to the staff shortages problem.

If you are on Facebook and you haven’t signed up to follow the Save Oswestry Maternity Unit page then I would urge you to sign up and support the campaign to keep the MLU open 24/7.

Oswestry Maternity Unit saga drags on. David Walker marshalling at the 2nd march against closures last year
Marshalling at the 2nd march against closures last year

Maternity Unit Saga Drags on

David Walker outside Oswestry Maternity Unit which has been beset by temporary closures due to staff shortages

Residents, parents, local Conservatives, Lib Dems & Greens continue to express outrage at the ongoing Maternity Unit saga. After a prolonged closure due to staff shortages at Telford – where expectant and recovering mothers were expected to use Telford or Wrexham units instead – we are now into a new set of more temporary closures. This ran for several months last year.

Whilst these suspensions are more than just frustrating for the parents they may also be a cynical ploy to run the service down to the point where the Midwife-Led Units. Repeated suspensions aren’t good for parent’s peace of mind at critical times of pre and post-natal care. Parents rightly expect to plan ahead and this mess can’t continue. MLUs should be open 24/7.

Parents rightly expect to plan ahead and this mess can’t continue. MLUs should be open 24/7

SaTH is seeking people’s views on temporary suspensions, and whether rotating 4-week suspensions of inpatient services is a ‘Good’ solution to the staff shortages problem.

If you are on Facebook and you haven’t signed up to follow the Save Oswestry Maternity Unit page then I would urge you to sign up and support the campaign to keep the MLU open 24/7.

Marshalling at the 2nd march against closures last year

Plastic roads: Are they the answer

David Walker campaigning for Wheelie bins collections for plastic recyclables

Plastic Roads: are they the answer to pothole and plastic problems? I think they are. Shropshire Council can recycle more, save money, repair more roads and prevent potholes appearing.

David Walker, campaigning for better recycling and reuse of plastics thinks plastic roads may well be an answer for that and our pothole problems and wants Shropshire Council to investigate it
David Walker, campaigning for better recycling and reuse of plastics thinks plastic roads may well be an answer for that and our pothole problems and wants Shropshire Council to investigate it

Cumbria County Council thinks they are the answer. They successfully completed trials in the use of recycled plastics to build long-lasting and stronger roads. Liberal Democrats run Cumbria council as part of a Joint administration.

Plastic Roads: Are they the answer?

Plastic waste that doesn’t normally have a recyclable use is heated to turn it back into the oil that it was made from. This oil can then be used to replace the bitumen used to bind the aggregates of an asphalt road together.

If recycled plastic can cut costs and the use of fossil fuels to create bitumen, produce stronger longer lasting roads, stop plastic going to landfill and reducing our plastic waste problems, then we really should be pushing hard to use plastic roads. In the long run, we should be taking plastic out of the equation entirely. Until then we have to recycle more of the plastic which has already been made.

Did you know?

  • Between 1950 and 2015 only 9% of 6.3bn tonnes of plastic made has been recycled;
  • Only 44% of plastic bottles are recycled;
  • Only 12% of household waste is reprocessed;
  • Roads comprise of about 90% rocks, limestone & sand for strength & grip, and 10% bitumen made from crude oil to bind it together;
  • Oil from recycled plastic pellets are used to replace the bitumen;
  • Pellets are made from household, commercial and farm waste;
  • Most commercial waste & 70% of farm waste goes to landfill or is incinerated.
  • 500m of road offsets 500,000 plastic bottles or 8000,000 carrier bags

If you would like to know more about Green Liberal Democrats and what they are doing to promote Green issues please have a look at their website and consider joining them.

36 years to change a light bulb

West Felton LED street light with Sodium light in the back ground. LED are brighter and better for environment

Better street lighting plan thrown out by Conservatives

This is despite Shropshire Council officers saying upgrades will take 36 years at present rate.

It shouldn't take 36 years to change 18,500 lightbulbs. Above is a recently replaced light in West Felton with an older sodium light in the background. New lights are brighter and more energy efficient
It shouldn’t take 36 years to change 18,500 lightbulbs. Above is a recently replaced light in West Felton with an older sodium light in the background. New lights are brighter and more energy efficient

Large numbers of councils across the UK, including Shropshire’s parish councils, are upgrading their lights to save money on repairs, and energy bills, reduce carbon emissions, light pollution, and crime, and to improve public safety.

Local residents often complain about poor lighting

A recent initiative by Liberal Democrats to convert Shropshire Council’s remaining 7456 street lights to brighter energy-saving LED bulbs within 3 years was thrown out by the Conservatives at a recent meeting of Shropshire Council.

At the present rate officers have said it will take:

36 years to upgrade them!

The Lib Dem move was blocked by Conservatives even though the bulbs that fit our present unconverted lamps will stop being made in June of next year.

At a total cost of £2.05m over three years or just £683k per year, the plan would have saved Shropshire Council £149,120 every year at today’s prices. Once completed, this would give a whopping 7.5% return on the investment. This saving would increase in future years as energy cost rise.

Instead, Tory-run Shropshire has spent £51m on buying shopping centres in Shrewsbury when shopping centres are in decline. Many suggest that present-day rental income will go down. The Council’s Administration also plans to spend another £18m on improving their headquarters in Shirehall.

Contrast that with Kent County Council where Bouyges ‘provided LED street lights for FREE’ clawing the cost back through maintenance contract yet will save £5.2m a year on their energy bills!! Kent County Council is run by the Conservatives.

Shropshire Council Conservatives really need a more enlightened approach to street lights. Taking so long to address a problem when the solution is easy is just plain daft.

Did you know?

  • Councils spend 30% of the annual energy bill on Street Lighting;
  • Savings of 50%-80% on energy bill can be made by switching;
  • LED lights last for 24 years – 7x longer than Sodium lights;
  • LED Light is direct making sure light only goes where needed.

Since last August I have been working with fellow councillors on West Felt on to upgrade the lights owned by them. Hopefully, we can crack on with the upgrade soon and start reaping the benefits.

Read more on streetlight upgrades here: LED street lights must be rolled out