Shropshire Council election 2021: Who is standing and what are the parties pledging?

The looming shadow of the pandemic cast doubt over whether this year’s Shropshire Council election would take place, but it’s battle lines drawn and full steam ahead for the contest.

Who will be celebrating when the votes are counted at Shropshire Council in May?
Who will be celebrating when the votes are counted at Shropshire Council in May?

The poll will see 232 candidates vying to be elected to one of the 74 positions on the council.

Taking place on May 6, the election will be slightly different with some distancing and Covid regulations meaning a change to the normal polling station feel – people will be asked to take their own pens, and will have to fill out their ballot while wearing a face mask.

The contest will see the Conservative Party looking to retain control of the council it has run since it was set up in 2009.

In the last election – back in 2017 – the Conservatives claimed victory with 49 seats, the Liberal Democrats were second with 12, and Labour third with eight.

This year council leader, Conservative Peter Nutting will be hoping to lead his group to another victory, although his opposite numbers will be looking to make headway – while the Green Party and a raft of independents will also present a fresh challenge.

It all comes against the backdrop of some of the biggest decisions made by the council in recent years, such as moving out of Shirehall and into Shrewsbury’s town centre, building the multi-million North West Relief Road, creating Oswestry’s Innovation Park and planning a redesign of Shrewsbury’s Riverside.

The county is split into 53 single-member divisions, nine two-member wards and one three-member ward.

Here we take a look at the situation facing each party and the independent candidates.

Independent, Reform UK and UKIP

While most names on the ballot papers in next month’s Shropshire Council elections are representing a political party, 15 candidates are standing as independents.

Three long-serving Conservative councillors who have been deselected by the party will run for re-election as independent members – against their replacement Conservative contenders.

They are current cabinet member David Minnery and Roger Hughes in Market Drayton West, and Karen Calder in Hodnet.

Shropshire Council currently has six independent members, and two of them – Dave Tremellen in Highley and Kevin Turley in Shifnal North – are bidding for re-election, having both represented their wards since 2013.

Shifnal Matters campaigner John Moore is standing as an independent. He is pictured here presenting submissions to Peter Nutting, the Conservative leader of the council

In Shifnal South and Cosford, John Moore of local campaign group Shifnal Matters has thrown his hat into the ring. Shifnal Matters has been active in fighting plans for large-scale housebuilding around the town.

In Shrewsbury, Peter Day of Greenfields Community Group will stand as an independent in the Bagley division. The group opposed the sale of part of Greenfields Recreation Ground by Shrewsbury Town Council to a housing developer, and subsequent planning permission granted by Shropshire Council.

Bicton parish councillor Mandie Lee, a former teacher and full time carer for her husband, will contest Tern division as an independent, with the backing of the Liberal Democrats.

Two candidates will stand for Reform UK, formerly the Brexit Party – Joe Dyas in Bowbrook and Peter Moore in Castlefields and Dintherington – and two for UKIP – Charles Shackerley-Bennett in Corvedale and Andy Allen in Whitchurch North.

Green Party

A ‘Green Recovery’ from the coronavirus pandemic is top of the list of priorities for Shropshire’s Green Party candidates.

The party has put forward 41 candidates to stand for election to Shropshire Council on May 6, on a manifesto pledging to ramp up efforts to tackle the climate and ecological emergencies and end the “neglect” of vital services they say has been felt under the current Conservative administration.

Julian Dean, currently the authority’s only Green councillor, is standing for re-election in Porthill having represented the ward since 2017.

Well known local campaigners are also standing for the party in the Shrewsbury area, including Jamie Russell in Tern and Julia Evans in Radbrook.

Tim Dawes, who was the Green candidate for the Wrekin in the 2019 General Election, is standing in Severn Valley.

Green Party councillor Julian Dean is standing for re-election

In Oswestry, five Green town councillors are hoping to win seats on the unitary council. They include mayor Duncan Kerr in Oswestry South. who previously served as Shropshire Council’s first Green Party member after winning by-election in 2016, until the Conservatives won the seat back the following year.

Olly Rose and Jay Moore will stand in the two-member division of Oswestry East, along with Mike Isherwood in Oswestry West and Rosie Radford in St Oswald.

In the south of the county, 2019 parliamentary candidate Hilary Wendt will stand alongside Steve Hale in the two-member ward of Church Stretton and Craven Arms.

Post-election, the prospective Green councillors say they will push for the North West Relief Road project to be halted in favour of improved public transport and active travel schemes. A blanket 20mph limit would also be introduced on all urban roads in the county.

The party wants to see the new local plan revised to ensure homes are built where needed and to the highest possible standards, and will start an ambitious retro-fitting scheme to make existing housing more energy efficient as part of a new “homes strategy”.

The group has also pledged to overhaul the council’s “failing, out-of-date models for economic growth”, to produce a new economic strategy plotting a ‘Green Recovery’ for the county which will include developing local green skills and jobs.

Mr Kerr said: “On May 6, residents will have the opportunity to judge Shropshire Council on its record.

“More than ever we need a council that will stand-by and support its local community. Every penny we give the council must be invested wisely.”

Labour Party

Reversing damaging funding cuts to vital services will be top priority for Shropshire’s new Labour councillors following next month’s elections, the party has said.

The group currently holds six seats on Shropshire Council – all in Shrewsbury – but is hoping to bolster its ranks in order to push for better investment in social care, education, housing and public health, as well as boosting local jobs and tackling the climate emergency.

Current councillors Alan Mosley (Castlefields and Ditherington), Kate Halliday (Belle Vue), Kevin Pardy (Sundorne), Ted Clarke and Tony Parsons (Bayston Hill, Column and Sutton), and Pam Moseley (Monkmoor) are all standing for re-election.

A total of 41 Labour candidates are standing across the county – including, for the first time, a candidate for every seat in Shrewsbury and Atcham.

Branch secretary Catriona Graham said: “We wanted to ensure all the people of Shrewsbury and Atcham had the opportunity to vote for a candidate that reflects their desire for a fairer and more equal society.

“And, after a thorough application process we are happy to be standing a excellent candidate in every single division in the constituency.”

Councillor Alan Mosley is the leader of the Labour group on Shropshire Council

Candidates include Shrewsbury and Atcham branch chairman Wynn Davies, who is standing in Loton, and Julia Buckley, former parliamentary candidate for Shrewsbury and Atcham, who is one of four Labour members hoping to win seats in Bridgnorth from the Conservatives.

The party has never held seats on Shropshire Council in the north of the county, and among those hoping to change that is former parliamentary candidate Graeme Currie, who will contest Oswestry East.

Meanwhile Neil Sanderson is standing in Oswestry West – the most marginal seat in the county which the Conservatives held onto by just 11 votes in 2017.

In south Shropshire, Caroline Bagnall is hoping to win back Broseley, which was held by Labour until 2017.

The Labour group has pledged to oppose the construction of the North West Relief Road, and pursue an “integrated transport system for Shropshire which does not isolate rural communities”.

Other priorities include boosting local job growth and training opportunities, in order to help the county’s economy recover from the pandemic.

The group says it will drive forward schemes to tackle climate change and enhance the environment, protect open spaces from development and ensure all planning applications are subject to strict environmental conditions.

Councillor Alan Mosley, leader of the council’s Labour group, said: “As we start to emerge from the pandemic we need an efficient Council that cares and Labour will present ‘A Better Way Forward For Shropshire’.

“Since 2010 and the Lib-Dem/Tory coalition our services have been starved of funding and services for people have declined while council tax rises.

“We will demand better and fairer funding for Shropshire while ensuring diligence, efficiency and effectiveness in spending, using local companies wherever possible.

“Clear strategies to tackle climate change are essential, including much enhanced public transport and active travel facilitation, protection of environmental assets with promotion green regeneration and jobs.

“Public Health, social care and our NHS partners must be better funded and their dedicated staff fairly rewarded.”

Labour has pledged to oppose the North West Relief Road. The Lib Dems and Greens are also against the plans.

The group says it will fight to ensure schools and youth services receive more money. And it will push for better-funded mental health services for young people.

Councillor Mosley said: “Young people are our future and cuts to our services for our youth people and schools is shameful and must be reversed.”

The group says it also wants to see council services currently out-sourced to private operators brought back in-house, including leisure and sports facilities.

Councillor Mosley said: “Safer and more involved communities with services based on local quality not profit are essential.

“So we’ll demand that out-sourced services are brought back under local council control.”

Housing is another major concern to have been raised.

The group’s manifesto says: “There are at least 5,000 households on the housing waiting list and a growing number of Shropshire people are homeless or in temporary accommodation.

“We need an ambitious programme for truly affordable housing through housing associations, the council’s local housing company and community benefits required of private developers,” it adds.

The Labour group won 15 per cent of the vote in the 2017 Shropshire Council elections.

They took eight of the 74 seats. Two members left the group in 2019 to sit as independents.

Liberal Democrats

The largest opposition group to Shropshire Council’s Conservative administration has urged voters to choose a different path forward for the county at next month’s elections.

The Liberal Democrat group currently has 12 members across the county and has launched an ambitious push for seats in the hope of seizing control of the authority.

All but two of the sitting Lib Dem members are standing for re-election on May 6, with the party fielding a total of 57 candidates.

Group leader Roger Evans will stand again in Longden and, in Shrewsbury, David Vasmer is hoping to retain his Underdale seat. Former parliamentary candidate Nat Green will also be bidding for re-election in Quarry and Coton Hill.

The party is hoping to hold on to all three Ludlow seats, with incumbents Tracey Huffer, Andy Boddington and Viv Parry all standing again along with Richard Huffer in neighbouring Clee.

In the south west of the county, Nigel Hartin (Clun), Ruth Houghton (Bishop’s Castle) and former former parliamentary candidate Heather Kidd (Chirbury and Worthen) will bid to retain their seats which have all been continuously held by the Lib Dems since the council was formed in 2009.

Roger Evans leads the Liberal Democrats on Shropshire Council

Byron Grainger-Jones, of Shrewsbury Civic Society, will contest Belle Vue, and Rob Wilson will challenge council leader Peter Nutting in Copthorne.

Meanwhile, new candidate Geoff Soul is standing for one of the two seats representing Wem, the only Liberal Democrat seat in north Shropshire.

Other new faces include Nick Saxby, a teacher and campaigner in Whitchurch, and former parliamentary candidate Helen Morgan in the Meres.

Mr Saxby, chair of the north Shropshire branch, said the Liberal Democrats were fielding a “fantastic, diverse team of candidates and activists”.

“Our candidates will be fighting tirelessly to make Shropshire work for its residents,” he added.

This year, Lib Dems are joined by Robert Jones, a former independent parliamentary candidate, standing for Ruyton and Baschurch.

He said: “I feel particularly strongly about devolving power, empowering local communities and getting their voice heard. Standing for the Liberal Democrats is the best way to achieve that.”

Group leader Roger Evans said if his group was in a position to form the administration next month, he would bring big changes to how the council is run.

He said: “We were impressed by the number of residents who wanted to become candidates and are not happy with the way Shropshire Council is being governed.

“It’s a very different council to that which was promised in 2009, they have centralised much of their resources when the promise was that they would devolve them. There are many examples of all decisions being made in the Ivory Tower of Shirehall with very little regard to the town and parish councils.

The Lib Dems want to devolve decision making away from Shirehall

“We would look to change that. We would devolve many decisions and work with town and parish councils and voluntary sector organisations.

“There would be very few decisions behind closed doors, we would have an open and transparent council and we would change many of the things that are being put forward by the current leadership.”

Councillor Evans said the Big Town Plan would be re-examined, and the North West Relief Road scrapped altogether.

He said plans to vacate Shirehall and sell it to a developer would also be looked at afresh, to see if there was a possibility to re-build a new headquarters on the site.

Councillor Evans added: “I want money invested in housing, and the economy of Shropshire, to boost tourism and attract entrepreneurs into the county, and in better broadband infrastructure.”

Councillor Evans said environmental issues would be of paramount importance to a Lib Dem council, with a pledge to install 400 electric vehicle charging points across the county within two years, build carbon neutral houses, and invest substantially in fossil fuel-free public transport.

He added: “We are certainly looking to gain quite a number of seats in this election. The universal message we are getting on the doorsteps is that people don’t like the way Shropshire Council is doing things at present.”

In the 2017 elections, the Lib Dems fielded 50 candidates and won 21.5 per cent of the vote retaining 12 seats.

Conservative Party

They have had control of Shropshire Council since it was formed in 2009 and the Conservatives are hoping to retain their majority when voters go to the polls in next month’s local elections.

Of the 74 seats on the council, 48 are currently held by Conservatives, and the party will contest every division in the county on May 6.

Council leader Peter Nutting hopes to retain his Copthorne seat in Shrewsbury, while cabinet members Steve Charmley (Whittington), Steve Davenport (St Martin’s), Ed Potter (Loton), Lezley Picton (Tern), Gwilym Butler (Cleobury Mortimer), Robert Macey (Gobowen, Selattyn and Weston Rhyn), and Dean Carroll (Battlefield) are also standing for re-election.

Three current councillors will move to stand in new wards, including Council speaker Vince Hunt, who is standing in Llanymynech having represented Oswestry West for 12 years.

The Llanymynech ward was previously represented by Councillor Matt Lee, who was not selected to run this year after claiming a full allowance despite not attending any council meetings since January 2020.

Elsewhere in Oswestry, John Price is standing for re-election in the town's two-member East ward, alongside Chris Schofield who is hoping to take the place of Clare Aspinall after her resignation.

Councillor Peter Nutting leads the Conservatives and the council

Ms Aspinall also came under scrutiny for claiming her £1,000-a-month allowance despite not attending any meetings since November 2019. She was elected as a Conservative but left the party in 2020 to sit as an independent member affiliated with the Brexit Party.

Bridgnorth councillor Elliott Lynch is standing this time around in his home division of Alveley and Claverley, and David Turner, who currently represents Much Wenlock, will move to contest the Liberal Democrat stronghold of Bishop’s Castle.

Other Conservative candidates bidding to win long-held Lib Dem seats in the south of the county are Josh Boughton, James Durnall and Ian Scott Bell in Ludlow, Anita Rose in Clee, Jack Limond in Clun, and Anthony Bevington in Chirbury and Worthen.

Meanwhile Peter Broomhall and Chris Parker are hoping to win in Wem – the only area of north Shropshire never to have been held by the Conservatives.

In Shrewsbury, the fight is on to win back previously held seats which have been lost to opposition parties. David Roberts, chairman of Shrewsbury and Atcham Conservative Association, is standing in Sundorne, deputy chairman Ian Burgess in Abbey, former Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council chief executive Robin Hooper in Quarry and Coton Hill, and Patricia Burchett in Monkmoor.

Shrewsbury mayor Gwen Burgess is bidding to retain her Meole seat, as is Market Drayton mayor Roy Aldcroft who represents the town’s East ward.

Two other town mayors have also been selected by the party to stand for election to the unitary council for the first time – Kirstie Hurst-Knight in Bridgnorth and Daniel Thomas in Much Wenlock.

Vince Hunt is standing in Llanymynech, where Matt Lee was not selected after claiming expenses but failing to attend meetings

Headline pledges from the group’s manifesto include an extra £40 million for road improvements over the next four years, an optional new wheelie bin to replace individual recycling boxes and bags, and ensuring local buyers have first refusal on all homes built for sale by the council’s new housing company Cornovii Developments.

Public health is another priority, and Councillor Peter Nutting praised the authority’s efforts in keeping local Covid outbreaks under control and working with the NHS to provide testing and vaccination sites across the county.

He said: “I think the main thing is that we want to keep people safe. Forget the Covid pandemic, hopefully that will pass quite soon, but generally keeping our residents safe is a priority.

“We do spend a lot of money on social care and education, those will always be really important to us.”

Regenerating Shrewsbury's shopping centres will create hundreds of jobs, the Conservatives say

Environmental commitments also feature, with a promise to continue with programmes to convert all 16,000 street lights in the county to LED, plant 345,000 trees and keep the county in the top 15 per cent nationally for recycling.

Councillor Nutting added: “We have major capital schemes on the go at the moment, and we intend to keep going with all of them. In Shrewsbury town centre we believe the regeneration of the shopping centres will create hundreds of jobs. We also think moving the council offices to the town centre will protect thousands of jobs.

Councillor Nutting said work on long-awaited projects, including Pauls Moss in Whitchurch and road layout improvements in Shifnal town centre, would finally get underway this year, while others, including the Ludlow Assembly Rooms renovation, are nearing completion.

Officers are also looking into plans to build a multi-storey car park in Bridgnorth, and a new swimming pool in Whitchurch. Plans for two new pools in Shrewsbury are “well advanced”, Councillor Nutting added.

Plans have gone in for the £45 million Oswestry Innovation Park at Mile End, while the final phase of Tern Valley Business Park in Market Drayton is almost completed.

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