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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

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System doesn’t work – so why not abolish parking fees and meters?

SIR – You report (January 10) that Copeland Council’s accumulated deficit for the past two years on its car parking ‘services’ is now £288,000.

Does this not strike a jarring note with readers who are familiar with commercial practice in the private sector? At the same time we learn that our Council Tax is set to rise – a proportion of which will probably be thrown away in a vain attempt to recoup these deficits. There are two well-tried maxims that Copeland might note: ‘Do not reinforce failure’; ‘Do not throw good money after bad’. The current population of Copeland is somewhere around 70,000 – men, women, children – simple arithmetic indicates a cost of £4 per head of population. Probably about £16 per household that might have been spent elsewhere on providing more pressing services to the community than parking? Other North Cumbria authorities managed to generate a surplus on their parking services, why not Copeland? I realise that the CBC operates as a non-profit organisation but that does not absolve them from the need to run a service that normally would be expected to generate a surplus of income over expenditure.

Parking in Whitehaven is a continuing thorn in the flesh of both residents in the town and of local businesses who complain that visitors are discouraged. Why not take the simple step of abolishing parking fees and meters altogether? Free up all the car parks – saving the consequent expenses (which exceed the income), staff could be deployed elsewhere; rationalise the on-street parking which to me at least seems chaotic; rationalise the double-yellow line restrictions to help the through-flow of traffic and deploy traffic wardens to monitor the yellow line areas. It might even attract more trade to the town while easing the parking problems in general. One might even feel that ‘parking’ guidelines are a help to motorists rather than a perceived hindrance.

Am I perhaps being naive in suggesting a solution to what in essence should be a simple problem? Or is Whitehaven’s parking problem a complicated, bureaucratic nightmare of a question to which there is a always a straightforward, easily understood, wrong answer?

Paul ADAMSON

Randlehow, Eskdale Green

IAN Curwen, communications manager at Copeland Borough Council, replies: “The figures quoted in last week’s Whitehaven News were taken from a national survey, and do not give the full picture of the car parking costs and income in the borough.

“The cost of operating car parks in Copeland includes rates and utilities for each car parks. If car parking charges were removed, the ‘deficit’ would actually increase, as we’d still have these costs, but no income to offset them. A way to reduce the costs may be to pass these assets to community groups, and this is something we are keen to explore with interested groups.”

SIR – I wanted to write following last week’s article “Cuts go on, but council tax to rise” (The Whitehaven News, January 10), which focused on the potential additional budget cuts Copeland will have to make, due to further cuts in our funding from the government.

The article suggested that Copeland employees would be receiving a pay rise next year, and readers might have linked that to a potential increase in council tax.

I would like to point out that Copeland’s staff have not received a pay rise for the last three years, and are working admirably in challenging circumstances, which have already seen services cut and new ways of working introduced.

We know that with the changes we will have to make next year, coupled with government policy changes being implemented like the introduction of the bedroom tax and benefit reform, there is likely to be an increased demand for some of our services, and our employees will have to deal with this.

It is more important than ever that we have the staff to deal with these difficult situations professionally and compassionately, and if a pay rise of up to one per cent is agreed nationally, this will be a small recognition of the hard work and commitment of our staff.

If we are forced to increase council tax next year there will be one reason for this – the cuts to funding we have received from the government.

Copeland Borough Council is changing, and we will be working differently in the future, but all of our staff will be working tirelessly, with the people of Copeland as their number one priority.

Coun Elaine WOODBURN

Leader, Copeland Borough Council

SIR – I am even more convinced that the time for Copeland’s staff and members to share some of the pain resulting from the cuts is long overdue.

It is two years now since Blackpool’s council staff agreed to take a pay cut, equivalent to four days per year (www. BBC.co.uk/news/uk). Rumours are that this may be increased to six days in an effort to reduce job losses. These pay cuts apply to all staff, from the chief executive to the bin man. If Copeland’s councillors were to recommend this to the unions it is difficult to see how they could refuse. How could they possibly argue against saving some of their colleagues jobs and in doing so protecting vital services?

In respect of members’ basic allowances there may be justification for Coun Connor claiming that they are necessary at the current level in order to attract members who would otherwise be unable to afford entry into local politics (letters, November 16, 2012). Yet that is certainly not the case for the over-generous special responsibility allowances.

A 20 per cent reduction would seem entirely reasonable since many of those eligible for such are also pocketing substantial sums from other outside appointments. No-one knows just how much these members earn in relation to their council duties, which at a time of increasing austerity for their constituents seems morally unjustifiable. All this and around £26 per gallon for their mileage (Rob Romano, letters, January 10) will doubtless sound over-generous to those on living wage or less.

You also quoted Coun Elaine Woodburn condemning the cuts as “morally irresponsible”. Whilst agreeing with her sentiments in this respect I would suggest that coming, as they do, from someone who has in the last few years decided she must have a personal assistant, personal computer and Blackberry and (whilst services were being slashed and staff made redundant) agreed to a £6,600 per annum pay increase, does smack of hypocrisy .

I feel sure that most council tax payers would be much more comfortable with the decision to increase council tax whilst being obliged to cut services if members showed themselves capable of demonstrating fiscal restraint by example. Reductions in allowances and mileage rates would be one way of doing precisely that, as would dispensing with the leader’s PA rather than a member of our frontline services.

Robin F PITT

Waingate Bridge Cottages

Haverigg

SIR – Whilst I do not wish to prolong unnecessarily a chain of letters in the local press, I feel there is a need to correct two of the points made by Mr Wood in his letter of 10 January.

First, regarding Ennerdale – Mr Wood is entirely correct in saying that we have no current proposals for Ennerdale. The fact that Dr Dearlove, who advised the MRWS Partnership on geology, thinks it may be suitable does not mean we will investigate it in Stage 4. However, if the community decides to proceed to stage 4 and offers it up for investigation we will investigate it (as we would any other site or area offered up by a community). By community, I mean the decision- making bodies (DMBs) who would be advised by a community siting partnership. The definition of those terms is given in the report from the MRWS partnership as follows.

DMBs: The local government decision-making authority/ies for any potential host community/ies. In this case Allerdale Borough Council, Copeland Borough Council and Cumbria County Council, as the DMBs, have the responsibility of making the formal decision on whether to continue to the next stage of the MRWS process or not.

Community Siting Partnership: (CSP): A partnership of local community interests that would work with the NDA and with other relevant interested parties in future stages of the MRWS process, to ensure that questions and concerns of potential host communities and wider local interests are addressed and resolved as far as reasonably practicable, and to advise the decision-making bodies at each stage of the process.

Second, regarding the siting process in Canada – the process does not identify the most suitable geology first and then look for volunteers. Similar to the UK process, it first seeks interested communities and then applies screening ahead of any detailed evaluation. The process is described on the Canadian Nuclear Waste Management Organisation website for which I include a link http://www.nwmo.ca/sitingprocess_thesteps.

Finally, I would reiterate that we are happy to share all relevant facts and would be delighted to arrange a discussion with Mr Wood or anybody else who would like to understand more about our plans.

Bruce McKIRDY

Managing Director

NDA Radioactive Waste Management Directorate

SIR – Think “sod’s law’’. Ennerdale Fell. Nuclear dump. Next to Ennerdale Lake, drinking water for West Cumbria.

What could possible go wrong in the next 100,000 years.

W ATKINSON

Vale View

Frizington

SIR – Regarding the article in last week’s Whitehaven News concerning the building of more new flats or apartments, whichever is favourable to call them.

I think it’s an absolute disgrace that these developments are getting the OK. These buildings are an eye sore, that is the ones that have already been built. Whitehaven is an old Georgian town and these building are the furthest you could be away from being in keeping with the character of the town. If it was someone wanting to put double glazing in a listed building they would be refused. It just goes to shows money talks. The harbour is being turned into a rich man’s playground as none of the properties are being erected for those on the housing waiting list.?

I myself know of many people who had small boats in the harbour, and had had them in there for many years until the dock gates were put in along with the pontoons and the price to keep a small vessel in there went up so much they were forced to take there boats out.

These are people who have lived and worked in and around the town all there lives. It’s shameful what the people with authority in Whitehaven are sanctioning, no care for the people who live in and around the town who are it’s bread and butter.

Simeon SCOTT

Meadow View

Egremont

SIR – I am a dog owner who made a decision before owning a dog that I would always pick up its waste. I refer mainly to the Hillcrest/Hensingham areas but in reality all areas of Whitehaven with regard to dog muck that litters our streets.

There are lots of responsible dog owners who clear up their dogs waste. There appears to be also a lot who don’t. The dog is only doing what comes natural, so the fault lies with the owner.

If you are reading this and are a dog owner you know if you are one of the people who are responsible for this problem.

Please make the little time and effort to pick up. Also please remember that you are not exempt from this if it is early morning or a dark night. Some people seem to think if they are not seen it is okay to leave.

No one likes to tread in dog muck and trail it into your house, let alone the health hazard, especially to young children.

Some areas leading up to our schools are a like a minefield of dog muck.

You will only be annoyed after reading this if you are one of the guilty party. The ball is well and truly in your court to become innocent, ie admit to yourself that you are guilty, then start to pick up and you then become innocent. As the meerkat says ‘Simples’.

Stephen LEE

The Crest, Whitehaven

SIR – On October 25, 2012, I parked on Aldi/Iceland car park (1½hr stay). As I don’t use credit cards etc, I always pay by cash, I had to walk to my building society on Lowther Street to withdraw cash to enable me to shop.

I am 73 years old and some weeks earlier I unfortunately had broken my leg and I was using crutches to get about. As a consequence it was taking me much longer to get around. I then did my shopping at Aldi and Iceland stores, paid cash, got a receipt and left the car park for home.

Unfortunately I was 13 minutes over parking time. Approximately 10 days later I received a parking charge notice from Parking Eye for £40/£70. I wrote to them to explain my circumstances and they were not interested.

After a few letters going back and forth, all they were bothered about was the fine, or for me to produce receipts.

I didn’t have receipts after 10 days for grocery shopping. Who does? I did go into Aldi to ask if their CCTV would prove that I had shopped in store. But they said they didn’t keep it that long.

Consequently I have very reluctantly paid the fine of £40 for exceeding the 1½ hours parking by only 13 minutes.

It’s no wonder that internet shopping is increasing and town centre shops are losing out when firms are employing the likes of Parking Eye. I will be shopping elsewhere in future.

Name and address supplied.

SIR – With all the bad publicity the West Cumberland Hospital has had lately, I was apprehensive to say the least when my husband was rushed into WCH critically ill. After a serious operation he was admitted to the intensive care ward. He was later transferred to Overwater, then finally Copeland Ward.

As my husband was unable to feed himself, I was allowed to go during meal times to help. It was then I saw at first hand the care and dedication the nurses, doctors, health care assistants, physiotherapists and occupation therapists gave to all their patients in their care and did so with dignity.

Due to the hard work of all the staff on those wards, my husband recovered enough to be home for Christmas and although it will take time for him to fully recover, he is now able to enjoy home life again.

Special thanks to Dr Jehengir and Dr Fazaz for their dedication, persistence and care.

I feel the nurses and doctors at WCH do not deserve the negativity they have recently been receiving and I would like to give them the credit they deserve from our experience.

Mrs M E McHUGH

Church Hill

Hensingham

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