Star comment: Heart of Shrewsbury torn away

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.

Copthorne Barracks in Shrewsbury
Copthorne Barracks in Shrewsbury

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.

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Comments for: "Star comment: Heart of Shrewsbury torn away"

Mark Jones

Unfortunately this was something that was always likely, particularly under this government.

Perhaps people might remember this next time there is an election and not keep voting for the Torries, although sadly that won't happen.

David Jones

Perhaps if Shrewsbury wasn't so dependent on the public sector for employment it wouldn't be in such a bad position now the government's money taps are being turned off?

The town needs more private sector investment, and please, not in just retail. We need industries here - actual businesses actually producing actual things.

Robin Hood

I agree that we need to be making more things but we also need public services provided by local people who are paid a reasonable wage to do so which they can spend in the local area and hence support the local economy.

This Government is slashing our public services and giving most of the ones that are left to the private sector.

Hospital parking is a prime example of what happens when public services are privatised - NCP are paid over £500,000 to run the car parks at RSH. The Hospital even does the maintenance so apart from the blokes looking after the day to day running of the car parks (on the minimum wage or close to it) NCP are left with the best part of £400,000 of the money we pay when we need to visit the hospital.

Why are people so quick to welcome the involvement of the private sector in public services when this is what happens???? Think how many extra patients could be treated if the car parks were run by the hospital itself? In what way are we getting "good value" here from NCP? In what way is the private sector bringing about the efficient use of public funds?

What we will continue to see under this Government is the private sector taking over public services, cutting wages of your average working man/woman, charging us more (yes, Veolia is another shining example) with the "profit" going to feed the fat cat managers and shareholders.

The next election cannot come soon enough.

Roger

It has been going on for far longer and with bigger effects than it is having now.

BT Area office closed

MEB Area depot closed

Caterpillar now presides over a remanufacturing facility instead of a production of Sentinel and Rolls Royce.

No more Shropshire police forces.

There are no local offices for the Tax man and DWP as one stop shops.

Now the Sorting Office.

The Prison.

Finally the Army.

Shrewsbury was once a County and Regional Centre with various manufacturers employing thousands. Nobody needed to travel further than their push bike could take them and they earn money in cash, settle their bills and buy all of their needs without leaving the town. With the exception of the Councils every thing has been systematically dismantled. Even the Councils are outsourcing to companies based outside the county.

What is left is a Dormitory town supplying labour to the West Midlands Conervation and just enough left here to support the residents.

The new JLR plant at I54 seems, to me, to be the next target for our workers to redeploy to and our motor industry components makers to supply. Every move takes our residents to work further and further from their homes.

I went to work in Birmingham in 1972 because the writing was on the wall then opportunities for success in Shrewsbury was in terminal decline even then.

Why? Because that is how organisations work now by clustering in cities for work and living outside the cities. Centralising call centres, Functional organisations instead of geographical and massive improvements in mobility and infrastructure to permit it. Shrewsbury being off the edge of the infrastructure it attracts nobody. The confined and congested town centre discourages moving in new offices for centralised organisations.

I remember putting up twenty poles to a site off in the middle nowhere were I told they would build Halesfield industrial estate and more or less from that day onwards all major infrastructure spend in Shropshire went to Telford at the cost of the rest of the County until the New Town Authority handed over to Telford and Wrekin.

Now that it is Shropshire's turn we find an empty purse. What Shrewsbury needs is some prime employers and we will not get that before the infrastructure can support it? We lost Toyota to the limited road access. Our trains are not directly connected at the right speeds and comfort. Only one decent road out to anywhere and that goes directly to M6 Junction 10, the most congested motorway junction in the country.

So we will have to settle for being a dormitory market town until the business model concludes that it is better to locate outside the clusters and then have the sites available to move into with infrastructure ready for the change. That is the challenge, to do what Telford did, with but with the people in place in an established community.

Bill

Roger, your are oh so right.

The future of Shrewsbury (and many other major towns in predominantly rural areas) depends on entrepreneurs who either have local connections or see the skills in the local workforce.

Bleating for help from central government or bemoaning past glories is wholly pointless and a complete waste of energy - instead direct that energy into supporting and developing local businesses, however small, in every possible sector - manufacturing, services, tourism, whatever.

The world changes and rotates. Time for Shrewsbury to turn itself to new pastures.

The Original Andy

I totally agree with you. The Government seems to think it is ok to throw money towards foreign aid whilst squeezing the taxpayer tighter and tighter. Rich bankers appear to be safe as do the banks themselves that were bailed out by the taxpayer. Meanwhile, those that are workshy continue to smirk as they bleed the benefits system dry. Under this Government, well known businesses have closed and we saw some of the worst riots ever a year or two ago. The coalition is not working and the UK working class are suffering for it. Well done Cameron.

eva land

And they have to be built in a pseudo Victorian period style not anything remotely, modern or nasty!

Shrewsbury will just be a town centre full of Charity shops soon and a few luxury flats along the river that no one can afford to live in.

Shrewsbury Mum

It's heartbreaking to see what is happening to Shrewsbury under this government. But one of the reasons why things are so bad here is that we've got a Tory council that is doing exactly the same as the Tory-led government so we are getting hit twice. The article argues that "...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." Exactly the same could be said of Shropshire Council- or Shrewsbury Town Council for that matter. It's a question of priorities. Should the government prioritise keeping 2 childrens' wards in Shropshire and retaining Shrewsbury's sorting office, or is it more important to protect bankers' bonuses? Is our council tax better spent on keeping the Grange Day center open and continuing free meals on wheels for those who need them, or should we prioritise free iPads for councillors and a revamp for the chief exec's office at Shirehall? We deserve better than we are getting at the moment. I just hope that people vote for change whenever they get the opportunity, nationally and locally.

HM

As long as people still vote for the traitorous Lib-Lab-Con political 'elite' - this decline will only continue.

Vote for the same - and you'll get more of the same.

Two Tone

The heading is a bit dramatic I feel. "The heart of Shrewsbury torn away". Which Shrewsbury, or any other town or town centre in the UK, would you like?

The one from the 1800's, the 1950's, 2025?

Change is a double edge sword. Change isn't always positive, pallatable or freindly but then it can be exciting, challenging and rewarding.

It's easy to write the above. I'm not from Shrewsbury, I don't live, work or rely on Shrewsbury for my income, although Mrs Two Tone does spend a lot of it in the towns shops, but I do agree that Shrewsbury is a gem of a town that deserves as Shropshires principle town to be a far more thriving place than it is.

I wonder what the changes now may bring in the future. How they'll manifest.

Good luck Shrewsbury.

Kev N

Sounds like no clear strategy from the council to encourage new manufacturing businesses.

Plenty of opportunity to spend the money in retail facilities but with an ageing population, decreasing numbers leaving school the council better get its skates on.

Ask your councillors and MP's what they are doing to help Shrewsbury from a slow death.

Roger

I I note that our Council leader Keith Barrow met the Prime Minister to discuss issue affecting Shropshire. The only subject discussed worthy of reporting by the SS was his dislike of Pylons to windmills.

No mention of Prisons, the Army, Sorting Office, Railway Electrification, Road Improvements. Police cuts etc. The things that are bleeding our Town and County dry. The impact of things like Horse Meat scandals, or Milk Prices on our food industry. Cuts to our Education Grant when schools are failing faster.

No doubt they discussed the plan to outsource all of our County services to see if other councils could use it as a model to let the private sector exploit the tax payer better and any other issues where a Tory council can help the Tory government to deliver their political aspirations.

One has to wonder if having a Council, MP's and Government of the same colour makes the stripping of Shropshire’s assets and opportunities much easier when the reactions are so muted. I hope they build a Pylon in his garden.

Roger

Having read about the Army officer who claimed £200,000 in schools fees for his children I was forced to consider how much we spend on educating Army Children in public schools. I thought we should be insourcing the education to save money. Now I have a better idea to save the Army money.

The Army is intent on selling Shrewsbury Barracks; so I suggest that they convert it into a boarding school for forces children. The buildings are ideal, it has a playing field and is secure. It is located with walking distance of the Town Centre and almost adjacent to Shrewsbury School which is one of the best public schools in the country. I see no blockage to making it into the Education Centre of the Army. If the Tories are so opposed to the public sector maybe they could let a contract to Shrewsbury School to operate it for them.