Council Leader In The “Star”

Some of you may have seen the article in the “Star” of 15th July, regarding Shropshire Council’s plans to “consult” the public over the future funding of council services. At the end of the article, Council leader Keith Barrow is quoted as saying;

In Church Stretton, we are moving the library a short distance to the local school and 1,200 people have signed a petition and are talking about taking it to a Judicial Review. That would probably cost us six figures and that would then come out of the libraries budget, which just makes it more likely libraries will close.”

Setting aside the more obvious points that “the local school” is in fact a privately-run academy with no democratic accountability to the library users it purports to wish to serve and that more than 80% of those who responded to the Council’s consultation on the issue were opposed to the move, his claim that any financial loss resulting from the Judicial Review would come from the libraries budget bears closer examination. A posting on our Facebook page makes the point;

“Why does Councillor Barrow link the possibility of legal costs to a further cut in the library budget?  All well-directed councils set aside funds specifically for dealing with court cases and/or use their reserves.  They do not raid a budget for libraries, care for the elderly or planning because a court case has involved a decision of the Council in one of those areas.  Shropshire Council recently lost over £250,000 in a legal challenge that found against the Council in the case of Hartley’s Day Centre for adults with learning difficulties.  Councillor Lee Chapman who coincidentally is very keen to impose the library relocation on Church Stretton was involved with that case and commented on the outcome:

“Although these costs were funded from a contingency budget, we are nevertheless disappointed at what many will quite understandably see as a waste of public money.”

(Shropshire Star, 7th September 2014)

It is clear that legal costs are not taken from specific budgets and those following the Church Stretton library saga might conclude that Councillor Barrow’s comments in the  Star are intended to scare residents away from legal challenge, deprive citizens of the right to challenge a council decision  and deepen the democratic deficit in Shropshire.”

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