First, it was the Royal Mail sorting office. Then it was the Dana prison. Next came the police control centre. Now, the future of Shrewsbury’s Copthorne Barracks is also hanging by a thread after being targeted in the latest military shake-up.
In the space of just a few months, huge swathes of the heart, history and tradition of Shropshire’s county town seem to have been ruthlessly torn away.
Every county has to evolve with the times. Change can often be a good thing, and should never be opposed simply for the sake of living in a comfort zone, particularly when we are all being asked to take our share of the pain caused by these tough economic times.
But it is hard today for the good people of Shrewsbury to reconcile such savage cuts to so many services on their doorsteps, in such a short space of time, when money still seems to be hurled around like confetti in other areas.
David Cameron persists in ploughing billions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money into an ever-increasing foreign aid budget, which now accounts for some 0.7 per cent of our gross domestic product.
And his right-hand man George Osborne has put himself out on a limb in trying to protect bankers’ bonuses against an assault from our European partners.
And all the time, towns such as Shrewsbury are bracing themselves for the economic pain of large-scale job losses which will cause a significant ripple effect throughout the whole economy.
Shops will have fewer customers. Councils will have fewer taxpayers. Construction firms will feel less of a need to build new homes.
And, perhaps most importantly of all, Shrewsbury will find it increasingly hard to present itself as a vibrant, credible place to recession-busting companies which may be looking to invest.
The Prime Minister is keen for more cash from the Government’s £11 billion annual aid spending to be switched to conflict-troubled countries such as Afghanistan and Mali rather than lavished on fast-growing nations.
Fair enough, and no doubt an acknowledgement that taxpayers are becoming increasingly frustrated with rises in aid spending while other domestic departments face cuts.
But charity really needs to begin much closer to home, and as yet, there is no sign of a Government singing from the same page of the hymn sheet.
While postal, prison and police services are stripped bare, business secretary Vince Cable is campaigning in public against further savings in his own department. Why? Because he acknowledges that swathing cuts can undermine measures to boost economic growth.
He wants a boost to large-scale building projects to stimulate the economy. Please, Mr Cable, can you make a case for Shrewsbury being very close to the top of the list?
Because let us not forget, the pain is not over yet for the county town. The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital will soon see part of its maternity services relocated to Telford, and Shirehall continues to battle hard to balance its books.
To be fair, we must consider these latest military plans from a slightly wider perspective.
For Shropshire as a whole, Philip Hammond’s plans are not a complete disaster. The movement of resources from Copthorne to Donnington will go a significant way towards safeguarding Telford’s sprawling army barracks, and the roles of Cosford, Shawbury and Tern Hill as important strategic Royal Air Force bases would appear to remain intact.
But that will not prevent the people of Shrewsbury from thinking that the Government has got it in for them.Subscribe to our Newsletter