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Shropshire Star comment: Where would we be without extraordinary work of volunteers?

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

It is hard to know where we would be in this country without the extraordinary work of volunteers.

Stuart Tyrer and Dave Brown lead the way as the volunteers from West Mercia Search and Rescue carry out their training exercises on the Long Mynd at Church Stretton

Each week, tens of thousands of people from all walks of life give up their free time to help others, without asking for or receiving a penny in return.

Take West Mercia Search and Rescue as an example, a group of around 60 volunteers who help the police and fire services track down missing people.

They are regularly called on to help out in incidents all over the country, including flood hit areas, and searches can go on for up to a week in some cases.

Like many volunteers, it is true to say that they do not get the recognition they deserve.

The same can be said for the volunteers who are currently battling to secure the future of Falling Sands Viaduct on the Severn Valley Railway.

The tourist attraction is undergoing vital restoration work, much of which is being completed by infrastructure volunteers.

Put simply, without their efforts, as well as those who have contributed to a £1.25 million fundraising drive, the viaduct would likely be no more.

It was not so long ago, May 2015 to be precise, when David Cameron unveiled plans to give around half of the UK workforce three days’ paid leave each year to volunteer.

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The then Prime Minister pledged to give 15 million people volunteering leave as a central part of his ‘Big Society’, an ideology he believed would eventually take power away from politicians and give it to the people.

Within months Mr Cameron would be completely absorbed in all things Brexit and his dream was put firmly on the backburner, before being extinguished completely when he skulked out of office after the referendum.

This was undoubtedly one of Mr Cameron’s better ideas, and at the time it gained support from across the political spectrum.

Boris Johnson could do a lot worse than revisit this particular plan, particularly as the working lives of people in this country are becoming more and more complex.

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Everyone should be encouraged to volunteer in their communities.

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It’s one of the region’s sleepiest and prettiest towns. Ellesmere is an unassuming, picturesque town that seldom makes the headlines and tends to keep itself to itself.

Yet it played a hugely important role during the Second World War when it provided shelter to French leader Charles de Gaulle during his exile. And it is to be hoped that officials from the town are successful in their bid for formal recognition from current French President Emmanuel Macron.

President Macron’s plan to present London with his country’s highest award, the Légion d’honneur, is a classy idea. It fosters close links between one of our nearest European neighbours while recognising the efforts that Allied commanders made to protect one of the continent’s most important politicians.

Amid all of the hullaballoo, Ellesmere doesn’t want to miss out. And civic leaders who plan to write to President Macron are to be congratulated for their enterprise and vision. It is quite right that the Shropshire town should also be featured.

Ellesmere deserves its share of the spotlight for hosting the leader of the Free French Forces.

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