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Saturday, 26 July 2014

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One reader’s suggestions for the future of services in Copeland

SIR – As a resident of Copeland I was amazed at the list of proposed cuts the borough council was going to make in the Whitehaven, Egremont, Cleator Moor, and St Bees areas.

The first thing that struck me was the closure of the public toilets, because at St Bees these facilities are used by the public quite frequently and the withdrawal would put off summer visitors, dog walkers and hikers which in turn would impact on the café.

At Whitehaven, after the closure of the toilet facility, the shops at that end of town could suffer a loss of trade.

As for Egremont and Cleator Moor, the impact on these small market towns will be the same as Whitehaven, but with an even deeper effect as the number of businesses in Egremont has reduced in the three years I have lived in Cumbria.

If the closure of these facilities is due to financial constraints from the costs of maintenance and cleaning, surely there are other ways of achieving savings such as using those people who have been given community service orders?

You have them cleaning the streets and other work, why not the toilets? I am sure that general maintenance can be done in the same way.

Who will oversee these offenders? Probation officers already oversee the work these offenders are doing so there would no impact on the council.

There are other people who are available to work, such as those receiving unemployment benefit who are unable to find work but who want to work. Why not use these people? The council would not have to pay wages as they are already in receipt of unemployment benefit. These people are an asset that is never used nor thought about because when you are out of work you are believed to be idlers or wasters.

Parks and open spaces could also be managed in a similar way.

You also mention maintenance of allotments – surely any maintenance could be done by those persons who rent the plots?

Many years ago in West London, where I was raised, the local council allotments were maintained by those who rented plots. They formed associations, with committees that took on responsibility for looking after the pathways, the fencing, access, and unused plots. They even opened a shop where they were able to sell the excess produce grown as well as seed, manure, compost, and gardening equipment, thus removing from the council any expenditure.

You want to close the tourist information centre – but why don’t you use The Beacon as a tourist centre for this purpose, with the café and a gallery showing pictures from the past and present with a visual slideshow of the surrounding countryside? I am sure The Beacon could achieve self-sufficiency within a short period provided the current charges are reduced, which would encourage more visitors – and with the tourist centre included, this would encourage people to come and look round.

I would point out that unfortunately people believe that when revenue drops due to the lack of visitors the only way to recoup those losses is to increase prices, but if one reduces them to sustainable levels it can in most cases improve the level of income thus making it a more viable business.

On car parking – increasing parking fees will only drive people away from the car parks which would cause further problems because people will be parking in the streets which will require more traffic wardens at an increased cost (unless you want Whitehaven, Egremont, Cleator Moor and St Bees to become gridlocked).

If the council were to allow people who hold a blue disabled badge to park at a reduced payment or even for free, this would assist in stopping vehicles parking in the roads. I suggest this because I have seen disabled people parking in the street thus causing bottlenecks, because they have to pay the full parking fee.

It could also help if the time allowed to park was extended to allow all-day parking in the larger of the two car parks by the harbour, the other being a short stay parking facility.

I have also noticed that many of the ticket machines already in use are getting to the point that replacements are due, so why not introduce a barrier entry only and pay machines that issue exit permits on payment of the correct fee? This would prevent people not paying or staying over their allotted time.

The facilities available at the Civic Hall should not be removed but should be available to all those clubs and associations that wish to use them. If this means increasing fees to cover costs I am sure this would be acceptable – closure would be a disaster because of the number of clubs and associations that use the facilities will either have to close or increase subscriptions to pay for the use of other privately owned premises.

It appears to me that Copeland Council’s policy is the destruction of Whitehaven and surrounding areas, as we live in one of the most beautiful areas of the country with access to the Lake District and coast on our doorstep. Why isn’t the council looking to get more tourists into the area? Tourism means money and with such a diverse history that abounds here we should be harnessing it.

I see that the Council is looking to stop the bulk publication of Copeland Matters to help with the cutbacks, but will still produce a small number which will be quite costly if you continue using high quality paper. I am sure it could still be published in the same quantity making even more savings if it used a thinner paper like that used in newspapers. It should also look to see if saving could be made on other stationery like using recycled paper which costs about half the price of normal copy paper and it is just as good.

The staff responsible for buying supplies could find companies willing to give discounts for large orders thus making even more saving. Shop around, renegotiate contracts.

I appreciate we are living in hard times and that savings have to be made, but let us be sensible and not kill off our local amenities. If you do, you will drain the lifeblood of our community and it will become a ghost town.

I understand the pressure put on the council to make saving by the Government but most of the politicians don't live in rural areas like Cumbria so do not understand that having to make savings of over £2.6million is not practical in such a sparsely populated area.

Small towns like Whitehaven, and the market towns of Egremont, Cleator Moor and the coastal resort of St Bees rely on people going to them to survive.

The people of Cumbria want to survive long and happy lives not a slow lingering death because Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg and the politicians have decided to destroy the UK with these unrealistic cutbacks that are forcing people back into poverty, particularly those who are unable to help themselves, like the old and infirm.

Robert GARDNER

James Park Homes

Egremont

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