A report into an £80,000 grant to TNS football club by Shropshire Council is being kept from councillors and the public alike. Not only were journalists excluded from the Council’s audit committee meeting when the report was presented last month, and not only have they subsequently refused to publish it, but now we have learned that Council officials are refusing even to allow elected councillors to have proper access to the document, and an opposition councillor claims he has be subjected to threats if he discusses the issue. These appear to be nothing short of deliberate efforts to obstruct transparency and democratic oversight of Shropshire Council.
Shropshire Council’s £80,000 grant to Oswestry football club The New Saints (TNS) has been the subject of a number of recent investigations, starting with a private investigation early this year which lead to the Council’s audit committee launching its own investigation. It’s findings were presented to the Audit Committee last month, but only behind closed doors, journalists and members of the public were ejected from the meeting. What’s more, the Council insisted that “the report will remain confidential because individual persons can be identified, and to protect the integrity of any potential litigation.”
The report should be published in its entirety, now. The excuses offered for not publishing the report, refusing proper scrutiny even by elected councillors, are just that, excuses. The behaviour and attitude of the council on this matter raises serious questions about how the council operates and how it seeks to prevent or tackle corruption.
This situation cannot be allowed to continue for much longer. It’s existence is a direct result of the lack of any effective political opposition across the Shropshire Council area. That has to change. The Shropshire Party sets itself the challenge of seeking to offer the people of Shropshire a real alternative that can hold our councils and its actions up to proper scrutiny and standards of transparency. Existing political parties are not in a position to do this in Shropshire, with their focus on Westminster and national politics, they are unable to put their focus on local and community issues, or hold a broader appeal across established party lines. Only a new party which is established to represent and stand up for our communities will ever be able to put an end to the dominance of a single party on Shropshire Council.