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Saturday, 29 November 2014

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No need to merge councils – why spread the jam?

cevicvicmeet
low turnout: The meeting to discuss austerity measures in Whitehaven Civic Hall on Friday evening

SIR – Friday night’s public meeting on spending cuts was very disappointing in as much as the turnout was quite low, however our MP actually painted a very rosy economic future if the proposed nuclear developments come to fruition.

He did, though, intimate that a merger between Allerdale and Copeland might be a possibility. I can’t understand (if all this money and benefits are to come our way) why we should even consider a merger. If we can weather the storm until things start to flow through, the benefits to Copeland would be massive – why spread the jam with our neighbours?

Copeland has the responsibility of having these sites within its borders, and as such Copeland should get the lion’s share of the benefits. It was a bit depressing that the second half of the evening was spoiled because a simple microphone could not be organised and those at the back could not hear half the proceedings (perhaps symptomatic of the Civic Hall’s problems) and of course no borough councilors spoke.

Tom TODD

Woodhouse, Whitehaven

SIR – I applaud Rob Romano for his letters (The Whitehaven News, November 8 and 15) in which he has urged members of Copeland Borough Council to take a 50 per cent cut in their allowances and expenses.

What is particularly distasteful about the mileage allowance for members is that at 52.06p per mile it is substantially higher than the rate for officers at 45p per mile. How can this be fair?

In his letter of November 8, Mr Romano quoted a total figure of £263,000 for members’ expenses and allowances during 2011/12. That figure is debatable since many members are appointed to serve on outside bodies for which they receive further remuneration.

Despite the fact that these appointments are a part of their duties as elected members, they choose to pocket the allowances paid by the various boards to which they are appointed, rather than the allowances being paid into Copeland’s coffers where many people would argue they belong.

The total sum has never been disclosed – when pressed under the Freedom of Information Act they argue they do not know the amounts involved.

Coincidentally you also published details of the NAO’s “damning report” into Sellafield on November 8. It is a coincidence because one of the external boards that members of Copeland are appointed to is the West Cumbria Site Stakeholders Group, one of whom is the leader of Copeland’s Conservative Group, Coun David Moore, who receives £5,000 for chairing its quarterly meetings. The deputy chair is none other than the leader of the Labour Group and council leader Coun Elaine Woodburn who receives £2,500 as the vice-chair.

With such prominent personages representing the citizens of Copeland, we might expect to rest safely in our beds, yet Margaret Hodge MP is quoted as saying: “Hazardous radioactive waste is housed in buildings which pose intolerable risks to people and the environment”. I cannot recall either Coun Moore or Coun Woodburn suggesting that we are at risk as a result of inappropriate/deteriorating storage facilities for hazardous nuclear waste. After years of membership of the WCSSG, and many thousands of pounds of remuneration, surely we might expect them to have recognised and broadcast such a risk?

I think people might also question the wisdom of members being beholden to the nuclear industry as a result of the allowances they are paid from the nuclear industries purse.

In his most recent letter (The Whitehaven News, November 15) Mr Romano queries why the chief executive of CBC commutes from Lancashire to Whitehaven and at other times is allowed to work from home. I suspect that he would be appalled to learn that, in addition to a salary of £110,000 per annum, the chief executive also receives £10,000 relocation expenses even though he has never relocated. Under Copeland’s terms this payment covers costs of a second home etc. Worse still he is also entitled to £5,000 mileage per annum without the need to submit claims for that mileage, times, dates etc. All of the above information has been confirmed by FOIs.

Since I was chair of Copeland’s Personnel Committee at that time I must take some of the blame for this, even though I had absolutely no say in his appointment, which was dealt with by senior members of a cross-party panel.

Nor did I have any say in the terms agreed, which were much more generous than those originally advertised. The interview panel considered it would all be money well spent and to Copeland’s long term advantage.

I seriously doubt whether Rob Romano’s campaign will ever succeed and I am sure that he would agree with me but what it is doing (and much more effectively than Copeland’s PR team) is getting people interested in the council’s current situation and openly discussing issues that have been ignored for far too long. I wish him every success in that.

Robin F PITT

Haverigg

SIR – My father Charles Gaffney was a Labour county councillor for many years in the 1980s.

He received his train fare to Carlisle to attend meetings and this was his only remuneration, which was gratefully received. He felt proud to represent his constituents and this was ample reward for him.

What a pity present councillors do not feel the same and by following his example save us money and the prospect of future horrendous cuts.

Nancy MONAGHAN

Address supplied

SIR – Your front page article “MP calls public meeting over cuts” (The Whitehaven News, November 8) said that “a Public meeting in Whitehaven has been organised by Copeland’s MP to talk about the major cuts facing the borough,” while your online follow-up [see page six] seems to indicate that the MP’s “talk” degenerated into his usual nuclear diatribe.

In the intervening week during he tweeted to his near-19,000 Twitter followers: “On the train down, opposite an incredibly obnoxious and opinionated woman (you people) my withering glances were not enough. Had to do more.

“As she slagged off the train guard I simply looked at her and asked: ‘Are you growing that for Movember?’ Am I right? Yeah? Who’s with me?”

I mention this as I believe his tweeting indicates his state of mind and the sheer desperation on him failing his nuclear masters – as does his reported quote: “The only way Copeland can survive the brutal budget cuts it faces is by hosting a new underground nuclear waste repository.” Wot? Are we building it next year along with Mox2, Thorp2, Prism and a power station? Why not move Faslane to Sellahaven and Coulport to a dredged Ravensglass for good measure?

Well here is a suggestion based on a report by Alan Irving last December 22 which stated: “Sellafield’s 10,000 permanent staff have picked up a £1,000 bonus just in time for Christmas. It is their reward from the company for good performance under the annual Target Achievement Scheme.”

It went on: “The scheme is still in its early stages but so far employee take-up has been good and statistical evidence demonstrates that Aceman [the bonus project] is having a positive impact across the business. As such this element of the TAS scheme has achieved maximum payout for December... the second half of the TAS payment will be in May and if targets are reached staff stand to gain a further £1,500 each.”

By taking my shoes and socks off, I make this £25million of taxpayer money paid out to circa 10,000 Sellafield employees. If this bonus scheme is to be repeated again this year, why doesn’t Mr Reed ask each of the 10,000 to donate £250 towards a ‘Save the Sellahaven’ fund? That raises £2.5million using taxpayers’ money. Oh! he can’t! Because that would involve his nuclear electorate.

Arthur MILLIE

Longcroft, Egremont

SIR – May I thank everyone who turned up to support the big Whitehaven Christmas lights switch-on on Sunday, and all the people who bought a wristband supporting the event.

Entertainment such as the CFM roadshow and the headline band (this year The Risk) costs several thousand pounds each year and is all raised voluntarily. I put on a few gigs a year in the Civic Hall to raise funds, and we have raffles throughout the year with prizes kindly donated by our local shops.

I must say a big thank-you to Copeland Council, Maysons Bros, Kershaws Health Food, Pondfield Garage, Brooks Music Centre, Clarks shoes, Shoos ‘n’ Sox, Superdec, Threads, Crosbys, Wayne’s World of Pets, Upper Crust, Athena Beauty, Strange Fruit, Haven home centre, Vivvy Lees, Moresby Hall, Dixons the Jewellers, the Market Deli, the Waterfront, the Haven Cafe, Whitehaven Festival, the Waverley Hotel, the Caspian on Lowther Street, Iggesund, SEL Electrical, Costa coffee, and Egremont & District Football League – thank you all so much for supporting the event.

Please remember, we do need your help to keep the event going. Wristbands are still available in the shop. My team of volunteers worked hard to bring you this event – please support us!

Charles MAUDLING

Organiser, Whitehaven Christmas Lights Switch-On events

SIR – I was puzzled by the comments in the editorial column in last week’s issue of The Whitehaven News when, under the heading “Have your day on police”,, you finished by saying: “So if we want our views heard, we musn’t waste our vote”.

Does that mean that those who (for whatever reason) did not vote or who deliberately spoiled their ballot paper are unable to have their views heard? And what about those who did vote but did not vote for the winning candidate?

In my opinion a far more effective way of trying to get one’s views heard is to write directly to candidates and the eventual winner.

Charles WOOD

Rose Lane, Cockermouth

SIR – I refer to Bob Burton’s letters that you have published in July and November in The Whitehaven News and also comments about cleanup at Sellafield and the National Audit Office’s (NAO) report on the value for money of this project.

Mr Burton’s analysis favouring thick shields for HLW has turned the nuclear waste problem around because it is less focused on geology to provide safety. This new approach involves long-term storage of High Level Waste (HLW) and Intermediate Level Waste (ILW) (see Burton, Nuclear Engineering, Oct 2009) in suitable buildings.

The former could eventually go to hillside burial and the latter could be earthed over and landscaped as currently done for toxic non-active waste. Oxford Professor Wade Allison points out that the safe limit of radiation exposure to the public has increased 150-fold since the 1950s. This limit is well above that we tolerate when a patient is given radiotherapy. Surely the time has come to re-assess Burton’s alternative against updated radiation criteria, putting together a working group of councillors, public members and external experts with a time limit to report back.

The Whitehaven News has highlighted the ‘jaw dropping’ overspends on the Sellafield clean up project and the need for a follow up investigation by an all party committee and public hearing. It is about time that we considered ‘value for money’ alternatives that meet the technical standards required.

David Cameron talks about re-balancing the economy, developing the regions and generating cost savings to reduce the government’s deficit. Isn’t about time that the suggestions made by Burton and Allison are taken on board and cost savings reinvested and deployed to support local communities surrounding this project?

Professor Colin HASLAM

University of London

SIR – As chairman and secretary of ENTRA, the very successful Tenants and Residents Association in Maryport, we were invited this week to speak to a group of residents from Thornhill interested in forming a similar group to revitalise their community.

About 20 attended with three Home Group officers and we felt a sense of deja vu because we were in exactly the same position two-and-a-half years ago with our group rising form the ashes of a previously dormant association.

We have been so successful that we have won three awards in as many months, with Sharon being voted Home Group customer of the year in Birmingham last week.

Our impressions of the people we met were that there is every possibility this group will replicate our success and we would urge all Thornhill residents to get behind them and make it happen. The rewards cannot be underestimated and the whole community will benefit from the activities they will organise.

Our open monthly meeting provides an opportunity for local people to report problems with anti-social behaviour and other issues without fearing retribution and can be a big help in improving lives and making them safer – so much so, we won a police safer communities award recently.

There will be opportunities for this group to do the same and arrange activities for all ages within the community which can only be good for everybody.

If you live on Thornhill, please watch out for posters and other news and take advantage of this unique opportunity to regenerate your community spirit and make the estate a happier, safer place.

Bill and Sharon BARNES

Ewanrigg and Netherton Tenants and Residents Association, Maryport

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