In a follow-up to the preceding story, Church Stretton Town Council have now written to Malcolm Pate, the leader of Shropshire Council, protesting about the very limited deadline and outlining the problems this will cause. The content of the Town Council’s letter is given below:
Cllr. M. Pate, Shropshire Council Leader, Shirehall, Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury.SY2 6ND
17th May 2016
Dear Cllr. Pate,
Proposed Time-table for Transfer of Financial Responsibility
I write to ask you to reconsider the time-table for proposals for the transfer of responsibility for discretionary services to town and parish councils or other bodies. The time-table you have currently set requires alternative providers across the county to provide you with recommendations in September for taking over responsibility in April 2017.
As is becoming ever clearer, this is an unrealistic time-table. I say this for a number of reasons:-
- It will not be possible for those councils to complete their negotiations and community consultations before September, especially when Shropshire Council’s Strategic Reports relating to the major services of libraries and leisure centres have still to be published, not to mention the subsequent consultations on those Reports. These are likely to be running at the same time as many Parishes and Town Councils are attempting to consult their own communities, leading to considerable confusion.
- The proposed time-table will place intolerable strain on Town and Parish Clerks, with few support staff, having to deal with service transfers with limited experience of the process involved. The recently completed transfer of Rectory Wood and Field to Church Stretton Town Council took eighteen months, with a transitional transfer of management responsibility running in parallel to the asset transfer. This was facilitated by the previous experience and legal training of our Town Clerk, which is unlikely to apply in all instances.
- However, the impracticality of the current time-table applies even more to your own staff. The staffing of key Human Resources, Property Services and Legal Departments has undoubtedly been reduced, so multiple asset transfers will be way beyond their capacity within the proposed time-scale. Added to this is the very belated recognition of the potential claw back of monies that could be involved in closing facilities built or improved with grant funds. Just one example of the unrecognised complications that will need to be resolved before transfers can occur.
4. In Church Stretton, we have the added complication that the terms of the Quashing Order from the Judicial Review on the Library have yet to be agreed. When finally available, it will fall to Shropshire Council, for the very first time, to define the time-table for bidding under the Localism Act, while also allowing for further consultation, if no bids are successful. It is hard to conceive that this will be completed by September.
In summary, we believe that this means that Shropshire Council will not be in a position to transfer funding responsibility or to decommission most discretionary services in April next year.
I would therefore urge you to arrange for senior officers of Shropshire Council to meet with the Town Clerks of the towns most affected to work out a time-table that is actually deliverable. This needs to happen as a matter of some urgency because it will affect the timing of local community consultations, currently set, in this area, for July.
Cllr. Mike Walker
Mayor, Church Stretton Town Council