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Hard work and sound Conservative policies kept UKIP at bay in Shropshire

Barrow-keith-newCllr Keith Barrow, the Leader of Shropshire Council, reflects on the election campaign in his county

The votes have been cast, they have been counted and it's time to take stock and analyse the results. The first thing to recognise is that we appear to have bucked the National trend by returning 48 Conservative Councillors out of a total of 74. Labour have gained two seats while the Liberal Democrats have lost two. UKIP did not win a seat but still polled a good number of votes. Five Independents won with two having been Conservative Party members in the past. We started with 51 Councillors so in reality we only managed to lose one division.

The UKIP threat failed to influence the final result but I believe that most of the votes they won came from Conservatives. The UKIP candidate who stood against me was 82 years old, didn't put out any literature or knock on a single door yet still managed to get 175 votes!

When reading this a number of you will probably be thinking that its no surprise that a county like Shropshire returns a big Conservative majority as it is obviously a rock solid blue area. You would be wrong. In 2001 Owen Paterson was the only Conservative MP in the County and we didn't control any of the Councils. On Oswestry Borough Council, where I live, we only had four Conservative Councillors out of twenty nine!

In my blog post before the election I said 'How do I think we will do? I've been in politics long enough not to take anything for granted, but I am confident that we will return a Conservative majority even though it might be slightly smaller than in 2009' and that has turned out to be a pretty accurate forecast.

Why do I think we have done so well?

A group of hardworking Councillors has been essential but I believe that delivering a traditional Conservative agenda has been the real secret of our success.

We froze Council Tax for four years and reduced it by 4.4% in two areas as we equalised tax across Shropshire.

We got rid of all the high paid staff including our Chief Executive who salary was £180,000. Add National Insurance and pension contributions and he cost us over £220,000!

We stopped paying Senior Officers huge salaries and slimmed down their numbers. We did not replace the Chief Executive and now the most Senior and highest paid officer earns £99,000.

We have put together a great management team who are committed to delivering for Shropshire and have proved that money doesn't have to be the main attraction of the job.

The bins are emptied, the pot holes are filled and the last snow fall was dealt with brilliantly. In my opinion if you get those thing right then you will have a reasonably satisfied electorate.

All this has been achieved alongside saving £85 million over the same period. We achieved this with no reduction in service delivery or quality. Over the last four years I have spoken at dozens of public meeting across the whole of Shropshire and always finish by asking for anyone who has noticed any deterioration in the service provided by Shropshire Council to raise their hand. Not one hand has been raised.

Nationally I think we have a real problem. The feedback on the doorstep was very clear with most of the issues being linked. Give us a Referendum on Europe now, sort out immigration, cut taxes to get the economy going and stop wasting Parliamentary time on issues like gay marriage.

I have no doubt that national issues have caused the losses that we have seen across the country and I urge the Party to start delivering the strong Conservative leadership that the public are crying out for.


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