THE leader of the main opposition party on Shropshire Council has set out ambitions for his party to take control of the authority following next year’s local elections.

Voters will go to the polls in six months, on May 6, to elect a new cohort of 74 councillors to represent them for the next four years.

And Roger Evans, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, has urged people to seize the opportunity to ditch the “incompetent” Conservative administration.

It is, however, a big ask. The ruling group, under council leader Peter Nutting, holds 48 seats – well over the 38 needed for a majority.

Councillor Nutting has thanked electors for putting their faith the Conservatives which he says has ensured the council has gone from strength to strength.

Councillor Nutting said his administration was continuing to work on big projects relating to economic development, health, housing and leisure.

“The Air Ambulance wants to change its site at Cosford and we are supportive of the plans, and also very supportive of any extension to the RAF Museum. It is looking like it could be one of the major tourist attractions in the West Midlands.”

Other projects being explored include improvements to the Ludlow park and ride, and investment in the regeneration of Bishop’s Castle Business Park.

Councillor Roger Evans, who leads the main opposition group of 12 Liberal Democrat members, will have an uphill battle to win control of the council, but said he was confident his group’s strong history of challenging the current leadership and putting residents’ interests first would stand them in good stead.

He said: “We are working not only to become the major party, but to be the governing party on Shropshire Council.

The Labour group won eight seats in 2017 and currently has six sitting members, all standing for re-election next year.

Group leader Alan Mosley said: “The only councillors we have got now are in Shrewsbury, but historically we have held seats in Broseley and in the Oswestry area.

“We will be fighting very hard in all areas, concentrating on those areas where we have particular strengths.

“We are concentrating on maximizing the number of Labour members to provide stringent, focused opposition as we have been doing for the last four years.

“In Shrewsbury it looks like we will be fighting every seat which will be the first time we have done that. We are going to give everybody the opportunity of being able to vote Labour under Keir Starmer, based on our strong record of opposition to the Tory administration.”

Councillor Mosley accused the Conservative leadership of crying “crocodile tears” over being forced to make service cuts which have “seriously impacted a lot of people”.

He said: “Over the years the austerity measures and cuts implemented by the central government have been a disaster for many of our services.

“We are seeing the impact on our highways in recent years, and there are a number of school safety schemes which have been abandoned because of cost. Adult social care is clearly under-funded to the detriment of large numbers of vulnerable people.

“We have a Tory administration crying crocodile tears about their own government in Westminster which has imposed disastrous cuts on Shropshire Council’s grants, causing irreparable harm to Shropshire residents.”

Meanwhile Julian Dean hopes he will no longer be the only Green member in the chamber following the election.

He currently sits with the independent group and said: “One thing that won’t change is working cross-party.

“We have got a few target seats where we think we are in with a serious chance. In 2019 in other parts of the country there was a real Green wave and we actually doubled our number of councillors, including a couple of surprises.”

Councillor Dean said he was confident that the mounting public concern over climate change and the environment would translate into votes. He said measures to reduce traffic to allow for social distancing in Shropshire’s town centres during the pandemic had been well-received and made people think more about the kind of environment they want to live in. He added: “There’s a real desire for something better.”

There are also seven independent councillors, three of whom sit on the independent group under leader Pauline Dee. Of the four non-affiliated members, two were elected for Labour in 2017 and one for the Conservatives, but later quit their parties.

Councillor Dee said: “We can vote for what we think is the best for our electorate. We don’t have to toe a party line.

“I would never pressurise the others in the group – my deputy and I sometimes vote differently.

“I can’t see why there has to be politics involved.”

Councillor Dee said the recent introduction of parking charges in her division, Wem, was an example of how party politics can overshadow local needs.

She said: “Everybody I spoke to from other parties disagreed with introducing parking charges, but when it came to the vote they put their hand up to agree with it. That was to the detriment of local people.”