With Shropshire having und-ergone one of those administrative disruptions that central government inflicts on us from time to time, the new council has a great opportunity to set right one aspect of local government that worries a large number of electors.

The district councils that are part-autonomous entities within the existing Shropshire County Council have been done away with and all their functions taken on by a newly constituted unitary authority, Shropshire Council (why it is no longer a ‘county council’ isn’t explained).

One of the most significant, and potentially contentious powers passing from the old district councils to the new Shropshire Council will be the granting of planning permissions.

It is an inescapable truth that in rural England, the difference in value between a plot of land with permission to develop and one with no permission is enormous – not uncommonly by a multiplier of fifty.

For an asset to be re-valued fifty-fold at the stroke of a planning committee chairman’s pen would represent a spectacular windfall to any landowner.

The temptation, therefore, for an owner to make use of any influences that may have a bearing on the planning authority’s decision to grant permission is very powerful.

It is possible that some elected members of local authorities may be members of a Masonic Lodge and that an applicant may be a member of the same or other nearby Masonic Lodge.

As a result, it is inevitably a perception widely held (rightly or wrongly) that there is scope for members of the fraternity of Freemasons to use their position to favour their fellow lodge members and their connections.

As long as the possibility – and thus the suspicion – that this kind of corruption exists, it is extremely important to the democratic processes and open government that members of Masonic lodges declare their membership with their applications for candidacy and in their electioneering literature.

It would be a fine gesture if the new Shropshire Council were to show a lead in confronting this topic, which, so far, has been avoided by every other electoral body in this country.

Candidates putting themselves up for public election should not be allowed to hide their membership of a secret society.

Peter Burden, Ludlow.