Only 49% of over 80’s vaccinated in Shropshire

Helen Morgan outside the RJAH during the last General Election. The RJAH is a vaccination centre

North Shropshire Liberal Democrats have reacted with dismay to the revelation that Shropshire is England’s worst-performing county for vaccine roll-out.

The group have launched a petition to Nadhim Zahawi, the Minister in charge of the vaccination programme, to demand that Shropshire residents are given fair access to the vaccine.

This follows a report by the BBC that only 49% of over 80’s have been given the vaccine in Shropshire, compared to 76% in neighbouring Hereford and Worcester. There is currently only one vaccination site in North Shropshire, at the Orthopaedic Robert Jones Agnes Hunt by Oswestry, and this is far from accessible from other parts of the county.

Liberal Democrat spokesperson Helen Morgan said “Time and again Shropshire is left behind the rest of England. That’s why local Liberal Democrats have launched this petition to Nadhim Zahawi – we’re determined to fight for a fair deal for our local communities, and for fair access to the vaccine programme”.

Helen Morgan outside the RJAH during the last General Election. The RJAH is a vaccination centre
Helen Morgan outside the RJAH during the last General Election. The RJAH is currently a vaccination centre

Shropshire Council closes the door on Whitchurch pool petition

Nick Saxby is calling for a safe plan to reopen the swimming pool in Whitchurch

A petition for Shropshire Council to examine the possibility of opening Whitchurch Swimming Centre was discussed yesterday in a scrutiny committee. The scrutiny committee dismissed the petition but gave very few details about any positive actions being taken to get the pool reopened.

The petition, signed by 441 people, was launched by Whitchurch Liberal Democrat campaigner Nick Saxby, who was frustrated by the apparent lack of action taken by the Council to make the pool over the past several months.

“I was happy to hear the committee discuss the issue of Whitchurch Swimming Centre”, said Mr Saxby, “but it was just more of the same lines we’ve heard, and no real response to the specific things that the petition raised”.

Cllr Picton, portfolio holder for Shropshire’s leisure services, responded in writing.

“We completely understand the frustrations of the local community. We are frustrated too as we understand the importance to the users of the facility with regards to physical and mental health”.

She added that “detailed risk assessments” have been carried out and it was felt that it was not feasible to open the pool in line with social distancing measures.

One of Whitchurch’s councillors, Cllr Mullock added: “The reception area, the changing rooms, and the passage ways are just too small”. She stated: “It’s just not feasible”.

However, Mr Saxby was not satisfied: “We keep hearing about it being impossible, but no details are ever given about exactly what the obstacles are, or what actions have been explored and discounted”.

“Councillors did a bit of speculating and sharing their thoughts, but what I wanted, and what I think people deserve, is detail”.

“My frustration, is that the Council and its partners have had since last March to try and troubleshoot this issue, so using the current escalation of the covid crisis as an excuse just doesn’t wash”.

“There was a lot of exchanges of praise between councillors, for their hard work on this issue, but not a lot of detail about what that hard work consisted of”.

Cllr Roger Evans also spoke in favour of taking more proactive steps: “Surely we should be investigating methods”.

“We can do all sorts, if there is an effort to be put in. I’m asking, has it been investigated, and I’m being told, no it hasn’t really”.

“Easiest thing in the world is to say no: Let’s see how we can make it happen; that’s a lot harder”.

The chair of the committee, Cllr Wild, concluded the discussions by saying “I’m not going to do anything with this petition now”, before moving on to the next topic.

Mr Saxby shared his thoughts about the conclusion:

“It’s worth clarifying that this petition was submitted before the current lockdown measures were put in place. Since submission, circumstances have changed, and I wouldn’t expect the pool to be opening now anyway. But, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about what has been happening over the past year regarding the pool”.

“Cllr Evans put forward an interesting idea, of attaching a marquee to the building to expand it; whether it was feasible or not, it was nice to hear a councillor actually attempting to try and find solutions”.

“Ultimately, the pool is going to have to stay closed for now, but I don’t think that absolves Shropshire Council of their responsibility to be engaged with the people of Whitchurch”.

If you haven’t signed the petition but still want to, you can here:
Whitchurch Swimming Pool Petition

Shropshire Party PPC joins Liberal Democrats

Former Shropshire Party PPC, Robert Jones, has joined the Liberal Democrats and will be standing for them next May in Ruyton & Baschurch Division

Robert Jones, who was the Shropshire Party Candidate in North Shropshire at the last General Election, has joined the Liberal Democrats and will be standing for them at the local elections next May in Ruyton-XI-Towns & Baschurch division. This news is a significant boost to the Liberal Democrats who have ambitions to take control of the Authority next May. The Liberal Democrats are the main opposition party on Shropshire Council.

Robert said: “I want to stand up for, and represent my local community, to help hold the Tory council to account, and to work towards improving the lives of residents and communities across Shropshire.

“I feel particularly strongly about devolving power, empowering local communities and getting their voice heard. Standing for the Liberal Democrats is the best way to achieve that.”

Robert was born and bred in Baschurch and works in agriculture, specifically free-range poultry and egg production.

Helen Morgan welcoming Robert Jones to the Liberal Democrats in a socially distant way in Ruyton-XI-Towns
Helen Morgan welcoming Robert Jones to the Liberal Democrats in a socially distant way in Ruyton-XI-Towns

Helen Morgan welcomed Robert Jones to the Liberal Democrats in a socially distant way in Ruyton-XI-Towns.

Helen Morgan, who was the Liberal Democrat candidate at the last General Election, said: “The election next May will be hugely important. Residents will have an obvious choice, the incompetent and wasteful Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats who will fight for Shropshire and represent the only choice for change.

“Robert has a lot to offer the residents of Ruyton-XI-Towns & Baschurch. He is an excellent addition to our growing team. More importantly, he will be a first-class advocate for his community at Shirehall.”

Helen Morgan will also be standing for Shropshire Council next May in The Meres division. The Liberal Democrats will be building upon recent growth and fielding many more candidates in North Shropshire than they have for many years. They are optimistic about retaking previously held seats and making new gains

Robert concluded: “I can’t wait to get to work, win this election and then deliver for the residents of Ruyton & Baschurch division and for Shropshire.”

Former Shropshire Party PPC, Robert Jones, has joined the Liberal Democrats and will be standing for them next May in Ruyton & Baschurch Division
Former Shropshire Party PPC, Robert Jones, has joined the Liberal Democrats and will be standing for them next May in Ruyton & Baschurch Division

If you agree with Robert and think #ShropshireDeservesBetter than the Conservatives why not join us in fighting for Shropshire.

More effort needed to open Whitchurch’s swimming pool

Nick Saxby outside the closed Whitchurch Swimming Pool

Nick Saxby, a resident of Whitchurch and local Liberal Democrat campaigner, put questions to Shropshire Council’s cabinet on Monday this week, over the ongoing closure of the town’s swimming public swimming pool.

Mr Saxby had mixed feelings about the response given by Lezley Piction, the councillor with responsibility for Shropshire’s leisure provisions: “I listened to Councillor Picton’s responses yesterday, and was pleased to hear that the Council is committed to the reopening of the swimming centre. However, the spirit of my questions was the get more information about what has been done so far, but there was little detail on this”.

Mr Saxby had asked for the findings of any feasibility studies on reopening plans to be released, but the councillor stated that no feasibility studies, as such, were carried out. Mr Saxby commented: “They may not have undertaken ‘studies’ exactly, but Shropshire Community Leisure Trust has previously said “extensive investigations into the feasibility of reopening” took place. I heard nothing specific form the councillor other than restatements that it was impossible to open the centre”.

“Councillor Picton made it very clear that the building is not a covid-secure environment, but this is not news. We have known, and accepted this, since the beginning of lockdown. What the people of Whitchurch want, is to know exactly why/how. If we know what the issues are, we can work on problem-solving for them”.

As has already been reported, Councillor Picton revealed that an additional issue has arisen; a leak in the pool which will contribute to it remaining closed. “The revelation that there is a new problem; a leak in the pool; is a worry, but I welcome news that the Council is working to address this. I hope that they will apply the same effort to addressing the other issues”, said Mr Saxby on this issue.

Mr Saxby has been discussing the pool closure with other residents in Whitchurch, as commented: “There is overwhelming desire from people to get the pool open again. People have come forward offering help and advice, and even offers to raise funds if necessary”.

“Councillor Picton said that the Council now has a month to investigate options for the centre: What are they going to be doing in that month that they haven’t done in the past eight? Simply stating that resolving this issue is ‘impossible’ with no explanation, or opportunity for the community to collaborate and engage, isn’t good enough” says Mr Saxby.

“Councillor Picton suggested that I might want the centre to reopen at the expense of the safety of residents, visitors and staff. However, the opposite is true; I want to work on making the centre a safe place for the community. A place where people in Whitchurch can engage in activities which enhance their wellbeing, without compromising their health”.

Read more: Leak discovery further delayed pool opening

Owen Paterson has thrown British farmers on the scrapheap, Lib Dems warn

lib dems voted to protect farmers, animals welfare & food standards

The Liberal Democrats have warned Owen Paterson should “hang his head in shame” for voting against measures to protect high environmental and animal welfare standards.

Conservative MPs rejected amendments to the Agriculture Bill which would have forced the UK Government to ensure that British food and animal welfare standards are maintained in any trade deals.

Owen Paterson failed to back these measures, despite over a million people signing an NFU petition calling for the UK Government to put laws in place that prevent imports of food that is produced in ways that are illegal here in the UK, and a well supported local on-line petition.

The Liberal Democrats have committed to continuing the fight to protect British farmers, including exploring further amendments to the Trade Bill.

Helen Morgan reacted angrily to the news that Owen Paterson MP hadn't voted to support British Farmers. Helen is pictured supporting Helen supporting rare-breed farming in 2019
Helen Morgan reacted angrily to the news that Owen Paterson MP hadn’t voted to support British Farmers.

Liberal Democrat spokesperson Helen Morgan added:

“The Conservatives promised to protect British farmers, but they have betrayed that promise. 

“We now risk seeing foods that are currently illegal in the UK – like hormone treated beef, and fruit and vegetables produced using banned pesticide – making it onto our supermarket shelves.

“Owen Paterson should hang his head in shame. Despite the constraints of lockdown, North Shropshire Liberal Democrats were able to deliver a well supported on-line petition to him, highlighting the concerns of local residents about farming and food standards. He ignored them. He has let everyone across North Shropshire down by putting Boris Johnson’s government first.

Liberal Democrat Rural Affairs Spokesperson Tim Farron said:

“Unlike the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats back British farming. We want the Government to work in partnership with UK farmers to protect our world class food and animal welfare standards, cut greenhouse gas emissions and support the recovery of our natural environment.

“We will do everything we can to continue the fight to protect British farmers, including exploring further amendments to the Trade Bill.”

Owen Paterson must use last chance to back farmers

Helen Morgan reacted angrily to the news that Owen Paterson MP hadn't voted to support British Farmers. Helen is pictured supporting Helen supporting rare-breed farming in 2019

The North Shropshire Liberal Democrats have called on Owen Paterson to back British farming this week, and vote to protect our high environmental and animal welfare standards.

In a letter to Owen Paterson, Helen Morgan, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for North Shropshire, warned the Tories must not “risk farmers’ livelihoods to win a favourable trade deal from the USA.”

The votes come on Wednesday 04/11/2020 in amendments to the Agriculture Bill. The Liberal Democrats want MPs to ensure any post-Brexit trade deals meet UK animal welfare and food safety rules.

According to the NFU, over a million people have also signed their petition calling for the UK Government to put laws in place that prevent imports of food that is produced in ways that are illegal here in the UK.

Liberal Democrat Rural Affairs Spokesperson Tim Farron said:

“Farmers across the country are incredibly worried that the UK is about to be flooded with poor quality food undercutting their high quality produce.

“It doesn’t need to be this way. Liberal Democrats back British farming and want to work in partnership with our farmers to help cut greenhouse gas emissions, support the recovery of our natural environment all while continuing to produce the food that fills our cupboards.”

Liberal Democrat spokesperson for North Shropshire, Helen Morgan added:

“The Conservatives must not risk farmers’ livelihoods to win a favourable trade deal from the USA.

“If Owen Paterson is to truly back British farmers, he must vote to ensure any post-Brexit trade deals meet UK animal welfare and food safety rules.”

Please sign our petition calling for Owen Paterson to back British farmers, food producers and local jobs.

Ed Davey’s response to the new lockdown

Yet again, Boris Johnson dithered, delayed and ignored expert advice.

People across our country have sacrificed so much.

He was too slow in March and too slow again now, and his failure to lead has cost lives and jobs.

People across our country have sacrificed so much, waiting for Ministers to act and keep our families safe.

Instead, the Government asks even more despite failing to deliver an effective test, trace and isolate system. The priority must be keeping people safe and ensuring no one is left behind.

We need a real plan in place to protect jobs, businesses and the self-employed, not least an immediate u-turn on ending furlough. Unlike before, carers and care home residents must be properly looked after.

If there is to be any chance of a near normal Christmas for families and a recovery in the new year for businesses, we need a coherent plan now. That includes common guidelines agreed by the four governments of the UK and a strategy for fixing the test, trace and isolate system.

Whitchurch resident questions Shropshire Council’s commitment to swimming facilities.

Nick Saxby outside the closed Whitchurch Swimming Pool

Nick Saxby, Liberal Democrat campaigner in Whitchurch, has put questions to Shropshire Council’s cabinet regarding the potential for reopening the town’s swimming centre. The pool was closed earlier in the year as a result of covid-19, but it was announced this month that there are currently no plans to reopen it.

Mr Saxby wrote to the council; “The closure of Whitchurch Swimming Centre is understandable in the context of the covid outbreak. Public health and safety is paramount, and it is reasonable to have closed the pool to prevent the spread of disease. However, the perceived permanency of this closure is becoming frustrating to people in Whitchurch”.

“It is unlikely that social distancing measures will be removed any time in the near future, therefore, we should be looking to do everything we can to adapt to them. Simply closing the pool with no ambition to find creative solutions, does not seem to be in the public interest”.

Mr Saxby highlights the importance of the facilities for local people; “Given the importance of exercise for people’s wellbeing, as well as the popularity and impact of swimming on health and fitness”.

“People in Whitchurch are becoming increasingly fed up of the town being a low-priority for the council, and the swimming pool is just one example. I believe the council should be proactive and solution-oriented in to show Whitchurch it is concerned for the town’s wellbeing”.

Nick Saxby outside the closed Whitchurch Swimming Pool
Nick Saxby outside the closed Whitchurch Swimming Pool

Under the current arrangements, Whitchurch residents are being redirected to swimming centres in other towns, such as Market Drayton. However, Mr Saxby disagrees that this is a sustainable solution; he says; “I believe access to a public swimming pool is a reasonable expectation for a town of our size, a town which is also growing”.

“I have two young children, both of which were learning to swim at the pool just before the lockdown”, says Mr Saxby. “It saddens me that my children are potentially being disadvantaged by losing access to our local pool, so I felt that I had to try and take some sort of solution-oriented action”.

Shropshire Community Leisure Trust is under contract to provide Whitchurch Swimming Centre, as well as other sites across the county. After the pools at The Quarry in Shrewsbury, and Market Drayton are reopened, Whitchurch’s facility is the only one left closed by the trust.

The trust has previously stated; “Extensive investigations into the feasibility of reopening Whitchurch Swimming Pool” have taken place. However, Mr Saxby has asked whether these findings can be made available to the wider public, in the hope that there might be opportunities for solutions to be found.

Mr Saxby also raised concerns around the financial implications of the closure, specifically; “The extent to which the council is still paying for contracted services, and which entities are receiving compensation for the closure, and how this may be being spent”.

Mr Saxby hopes that if a wide range of stakeholders are engaged, there is hope that a plan can be realised for bring the pool back. He says; “I look forward to hearing how we can move forward with this. I believe that if our community is properly engaged, we can all work together on a solution”.

BREAKING: Government follows Lib Dems’ calls for UK-wide approach to festive season

Earlier this week, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey called on the four governments of the UK to work together and agree on a set of unified guidelines that would work for families across the UK during the festive season.

We’re glad to see that the UK leaders have listened to the Liberal Democrats’ calls.

In a joint letter from Ed, Scottish Leader Willie Rennie, Welsh Leader Jane Dodds and Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MP, they warned that “the interlinked nature of life in the United Kingdom means no one government can devise this guidance in isolation.”

Now, with reports circulating that the UK Government will hold meetings to try to develop this UK-wide approach, it’s more important than ever that Boris Johnson puts the national interest first to help families up and down the UK plan for a Christmas that is as normal as possible.

“If Boris Johnson’s government don’t act now, there is a real danger that Christmas will be under threat.” – @EdwardJDaveypic.twitter.com/s87KDVIVEt

— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) October 29, 2020

With so many families desperate to be back together this festive season, we cannot allow political bickering to confuse people.

We’re glad to see that the UK leaders have listened to the Liberal Democrats’ calls. With so many families desperate to be back together this festive season, we simply cannot allow political bickering and fractured guidance to confuse and divide people.

These meetings must be more than just a publicity stunt. They must result in comprehensive uniform guidance for family gatherings, as well as a common approach to transport, student return and asymptomatic testing – and it must happen urgently.

Ultimately, if we are to both keep people safe and ensure families have any chance of spending holidays such as Diwali, Hanukkah and Christmas together, then Ministers across these isles must also get a grip on the failing test, trace and isolate trace system.

The Government must fix failing test and trace system

The recent contact tracing figures show that the current system is still woefully inadequate.

This is despite repeated calls for the Government to fix Test and Trace. The test, trace and isolate system is essential to not only slow the spread of coronavirus, but for people to have any hope of ever getting out of the Government’s restrictions.

The test, trace and isolate system is essential for people to have any hope of getting out of the Government’s restrictions.

It is long overdue that Matt Hancock comes to Parliament to explain what this Government will do to overhaul their shambolic test, trace and isolate system – and answer to why they have failed to do so thus far.

Come the end of Oct, it seems the PM will be haunted by his own Govt’s failure to reach a self-imposed target yet again. Rather than continuing to raise people’s hopes only to disappoint, ministers must focus on getting things right now

My comments in 👇https://t.co/i4Bbw9HTC6

— Munira Wilson MP (@munirawilson) October 28, 2020


If Ministers are to get a grip on this second wave, then tests need to be turned around in 24 hours, tracing needs to be led by experts in local authorities, and there needs to be more practical and financial support to help people isolate.

Otherwise people’s lives and livelihoods remain at risk thanks to this Government’s incompetence.