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View over the Shropshire Hills

First quarter update for 2020

The Shropshire Lord-Lieutenant, Anna Turner at The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital

First quarter update for 2020

It was a sad start to the year as I attended the funeral of Liz Holt a former DL, I didn’t know her but wished I had having heard the stories about her and what a personality she was.  Fast cars and helping others seemed to be what kept her busy.  The coffin was beautifully decorated with very plain baskets of bright red geraniums.

My first scheduled quarterly meeting of 2020 with the Chief Exec of Shropshire Council was very productive, and I learned of the high rates of death we have on Shropshire roads, the high percentage of elderly in care and was also able to discuss with him a couple of possible businesses suitable for QAE’s.  The Chief Exec has been replaced by two interim acting Chief Executives whose first challenges have been the flooding dramas of March and Coronavirus.

I attended the flag-raising ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day at Telford & Wrekin Council, and followed that with a visit to the Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry to present awards to students at their Physiotherapy School.

During a visit to Build It International in Shrewsbury I met their Chief Exec who was recently awarded an OBE for services to education in Zambia and learned all about their work with apprentices there.

At the end of January we had a visit from Jennifer Ryan, Honours Secretary, who gave an excellent presentation on applying for honours.  My DLs and I have set up a new Honours Panel, so we will endeavour to improve our submissions to the Cabinet office.

February began quietly with me attending the West Mercia Police awards evening at Hindlip Hall,  celebrating the institution and induction of a new vicar at a small but vibrant church in Shrewsbury, and attending the AGM of the Justices of the Shropshire Bench.  Then the county was hit by the floods in the third week and it was all hands on deck.  Some of my scheduled duties were still able to go ahead as there were in ‘safe’ areas, such as my visit to the RAF Cosford School of Technical Training and attendance at the graduation ceremony and opening of The Duke of Cambridge building at RAF Shawbury.

I made my first visit to some of the flooded areas in Shrewsbury on 28th February accompanied by staff from Shropshire Council and went on to make further visits to affected areas in Ludlow and Bridgnorth. I saw The Barnabus Centre in Shrewsbury wiped out once, literally wiped and disinfected by hundreds of the congregation, to be wiped out a second time a few days later. That was a real tear jerker to see them at such a low moment when stinking water had rushed through their community nest. I spoke with people who had been temporarily housed by the Council in a Travel-Lodge who had lost all their belongings and also spoke to a pensioner who had been rescued from Bridgnorth through an upstairs window. I know there will be lessons learned on how to improve services in an emergency like this but I saw bountiful help, generosity, community spirit and stoic behaviour.

The Knife Angel arrived in Telford at the end of February.  This is a 27ft sculpture crafted from 100,000 knives surrendered to police forces around the country and it is on a countrywide tour to highlight the dangers of knife crime.  On 9th March I read Her Majesty’s Commonwealth Day message at the offices of Telford & Wrekin Council.

Thereafter I’m afraid events and meetings were rather taken out of our hands due to the Covid-19 outbreak.  So many wonderful and meticulously planned events had to be cancelled, such as the enthronement of the new Bishop of Hereford and the Legal Service for our outgoing High Sheriff.  The Princess Royal’s scheduled visits to Shropshire were affected as Harper Adams University were obliged to cancel the visit to the Hands Free Farm, and the three venues for visits the following week to Newport Girls’ High School, Save the Children Fund and the Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology at Bridgnorth all had to be called off.  We very much hope The Princess Royal will be able to fit the visits into her diary later in the year.

I have sent a message of support to the young Cadets who have all had to refrain from duties.  I am especially sad that the ceremony at Shrewsbury Castle has had to be postponed which was to say thank you to my four Lord-Lieutenancy Cadets at the end of their year of duty, and to welcome the new cadets.   The message I sent to all the cadets was this:

 “Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968 but before that he made some stirring speeches during his civil rights campaign and once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”.

Let’s prove him right and come out of this fight against coronavirus having used this enforced shutdown to our benefit.” 

I was very pleased to read on the front page of the Shropshire Star this week that Protolabs – the firm which was awarded The Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade last year – is contributing to save lives by making the valves which turn ordinary snorkel masks into respiratory ventilators. They are also producing tens of thousands of components for Covid-19 testing kits for use at hospitals across the UK and Europe.