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.
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
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.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Better street lighting plan thrown out by Conservatives
This is despite Shropshire Council officers saying upgrades will take 36 years at present rate.
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.
The state of the roads and the growing pothole problem has once again been featured by the national and local media. For decades Shropshire has had a reputation for poor roads, often readily apparent to road users as they crossed the county border. Yet the Conservatives solution is to make £5m cuts in roads in 2018/19 and in 2019/20!
For Shropshire, they have a colossal road network with some 3,138 miles of road, which has always proven a challenge to maintain. Nearly 3x the bigger the national average and more than double the average for the West Midlands.
This chart and the ones that follow are based on Government OpenData
One big problem Shropshire Council has is that it doesn’t know the age of its roads!
Every road has a life expectancy – roughly 20-40 years depending on traffic levels. This can be extended by a further 20 years by overlaying or planing off and relaying the top layers. Surface dressing or chipping can extend the life expectancy by 5 years at a time. Eventually, every road needs to be dug up and relayed to reset the clock back to zero. They would need to undertake a massive coring program to have a better idea. So they are stuck in a costly and inefficient cycle of temporary resurfacing. In the short-term re-chipping costs about 1/6th of planing. All of these lifespan numbers vary with traffic volume, axle weights, construction and material quality.
Shropshire hasn’t been great at keeping on top of its road maintenance for years. This shows up most when you compare the condition of the roads across networks with planned work. The % of roads that should have been flagged for maintenance for A roads in Shropshire is about average at 4%. The average in England is 3%. However, for B and C roads is 11% and nearly double the average in England. This shows where Shropshire is spending its maintenance money or more significantly where it is not.
The trend for England is downwards but the Trend for Shropshire on B and C roads, in particular, is getting worse. Bad when you consider where Shropshire was already worse than England average.
The Conservatives on Shropshire Council have a £59m black hole in their budget. One way they decided to fix this was by cutting the roads budget by £5m in 2018/19 and another £5m in 2019/20. Potty, given the state of the roads. All road users in Shropshire can see the steady decline in the condition of our roads.
As traffic volumes increase and road maintenance budget reduces, the roads will decay more quickly and the pothole problem will accelerate. This situation is unsustainable. Delays in fixing our roads will only mean higher maintenance costs in the long run. This has been happening for decades because they don’t know how old our roads are but this situation will only get dramatically worse. This will potentially lead to higher insurance claims and more accidents where the condition of the road is a factor.
The Government and Shropshire Council needs to take a proper grip of the situation or the bills for repairs will grow exponentially. Compared to Other areas Shropshire like all other central funding has always had a bad deal.
Queens Head Pothole is dangerous
Take the pothole at Queens Head/Rednal Mile junction as an example:
In March 2009 the pothole was roughly 1/3 of the size it is now.
Fast forward 9 years and look at how the pothole has grown!
Substandard maintenance, poor materials, excessive wear from the traffic heading to ABP are all a factor in its growth. This sort of damage doesn’t happen overnight. The damage is so severe that the underlying sub-base is exposed. The sub-base is loose aggregate which can be seen scattered across the road. This presents a danger to all road users and an increased skidding risk. Tear wear increases the damage to the road, as more loose material is dug out, as the wheels spin due to lower traction.
I reported the pothole as dangerous to Shirehall. By the 13th of March, the pothole had been temporarily filled in with compacted loose chippings.
So I went to have another look a few days later and recorded the above video on the 22nd of March.
Traffic volumes 2000-2016
(2017 data gets added in May/June 2018)
Cars and particularly Vans are trending upwards at an accelerating rate, whilst HGVs are ticking down.
Excluding the cars shows the upward trend in LGV or Vans. HGVs are trending down but there is a small uptick in 2015-16.
Drilling into the HGVs a bit further… HGV with bigger axel numbers are increasing…
Excluding the 2 axle and 3/4 axle articulated lorries we can see that the trend is clearly up for HGVs with the workload of the former now done by Vans
Overall this shows is the impact of online shopping on journeys and supports what we all know – that retail shops are under severe pressure and that Royal mail delivers many more parcels and fewer letters as more shopping is done online.
What that means for Whittington, West Felton and beyond is worse roads for years to come unless something dramatic happens. Unlikely without a change at local and national level. More expenditure that is out of control and more costly insurance claims.
Pothole insurance claims:
2014: 188 pothole claims. 25 claims against Highways insurance amounted to £31,000.
2015: 159 pothole claims. There were 46 injuries caused by potholes and they paid out £20,721.50 on 6 of those claims.
2016: 179 Pothole claims, 11 of which they accepted liability and paid out over £20,000.
2017: 106 pothole claims.
Update: 2018 Jan – May
Pothole claims shot up by 653% to 798 claims
The total cost of claims rose by staggering 845% to nearly £345,000
General wear and tear on roads from increased axle weight, increased traffic volumes, combined with adverse weather conditions – be that too hot or too cold leading to binding tar drying out with age, can all lead to tiny fissures forming in a road surface.
Water penetrated into the surface and freezes. This pushes up the road surface in cold weather. Once this thaws the void below collapse the road when traffic drives across the voids and fissures. Over time the road crumbles or collapses into the voids producing the pothole – initially quite small. Successively this process continues and the hole progressively gets bigger. Once a weakness has formed as standing water in it will explode outwards under compression by a tyre further accelerating the growth of the hole through explosive percussion. Once the pothole is formed the surface with be loose and present a skidding risk as well as a hazard for all road users.
Yesterday Vince Cable released his new year message:
If we want 2018 to be better than 2017, then we need a big team, pulling together and fighting for our party’s values.
Watch @VinceCable’s New Year message now – then join our team for 2018: https://libdems.org.uk/2018
Now more than ever as Brexit’s wheels fall off we need to stand together to fix an increasingly broken and divided Britain. Not so long ago Britain was at its most united during the London 2012 Olympics. We have fallen a long way since then as Britain now stands on the brink of being broken up by ‘Unionists’, weaker than it has ever been.
We now know that Brexit is a train crash in slow motion. Brexit means Wrexit.
Membership of the Liberal Democrats nationally and in Shropshire is at record levels. As we move into 2018 it is to time stand up and make noise.