Phil Gillam: Farewell Trumpton, hello real world

Mr Troop, the town hall clerk, has a terrible headache. Meanwhile, the mayor’s famous three-cornered hat is concealing a forehead wet with perspiration.

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Even Mr Antonio, the ice cream man, is close to a meltdown.

Why the long faces?

Well, not everything is going so well in the county town.

Okay, okay. “What’s he going on about this time?” I hear you ask.

Well, as regular readers of this column will know, my younger brother insists upon referring to Shrewsbury as Trumpton, that enchanting little town, home to eight-inch tall animated figures.

Yes. He believes our fair borough is as idyllic as dear old Trumpton – the setting of the delightful children’s TV series of the 1960s.

He likes to tease me about still living in my beloved home town – a place so pretty and so relatively affluent that the easy going Windy Miller would not feel out of place here.

And as for the utterly untroubled firefighters Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb – well, they would love it in Shrewsbury.

Except that none of this is right, of course.

For starters – and it scarcely needs saying – our real-life firefighters in Shropshire have rather more serious concerns than rescuing cats from trees or apple-picking.

And just like every other real-life town, Shrewsbury is at the mercy of the politics and the decision-making of the wider world.

Consequently, when we hear that more than £77 million will be cut from Shropshire Council’s budget in the next five years (with a number of services set to disappear), we can’t just brush it aside, we can’t just pretend that we live in a bubble and that none of this will affect us.

The authority admits financial constraints will mean it will no longer provide several of the services it currently delivers – although it has outlined nine areas to be ‘protected’.

A report compiled by the authority’s finance officer James Walton has set out the council’s finances for the next five years. It states: “Because we are protecting budgets for the vulnerable we need to save money in other areas and many of these budgets will reduce to zero.”

In response to the announcement, the council’s chief executive Clive Wright, and leader Councillor Keith Barrow, have warned that further cuts in funding from the Government are unsustainable.

Mr Wright said: “We are in a very different era where the public will not get services in the same way.”

The report adds: “While we remain optimistic over the future and our ability to manage a massively reduced budget, we are at a point where we cannot sustain further Government cuts.”

In other words: We’re not in Trumpton any more.

Says the report: “We will join other authorities, the Rural Services Network and the Local Government Association in lobbying Government to adequately fund vital services.”

The cuts follow on from savings of £146 million made since 2009.

Budgets for adult social care, adult safeguarding, school transport, the child protection team, waste disposal and collection have been listed as “protected” but other service areas have been designated for ”decommissioning” and others listed as “temporary”. Those services potentially affected have not been identified in the report.

Councillor Barrow said the authority would now be conducting “a big conversation” with the public to see what services they consider were most important.

I’m quite sure Trumptonshire Council never had to deal with anything like this.

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