Calls for a public inquiry into £1.2million stadium ‘scandal’
Last updated at 13:29, Thursday, 03 May 2012
THERE have been angry calls for a public inquiry in the aftermath of the Pow Beck sports stadium fiasco, the cost of which already stands at £1.2 million.
Tory councillors say an independently conducted inquiry is needed to examine all the facts to establish what went wrong, what lessons have to be learned and blame apportioned if found necessary.
Stadium partners – Copeland Council, Whitehaven RL and Whitehaven AFC – are to hold their own review leading up to last week’s decision to call a halt to the scheme in its present form.
But two Copeland councillors on the opposite side of the Labour controlled chamber – Brian Dixon and Alistair Norwood – have called for heads to roll.
A former Labour Executive member but now an independent councillor, Mr Dixon said council leader Elaine Woodburn and chief executive Paul Walker should resign.
“It is a scandal and both should go for the good of the community let alone public confidence. I would now like to see an elected mayor to give us the right kind of leadership.” he declared.
Tory group deputy leader Alistair Norwood said: “I support Brian’s views. My view is that the council leader is the one to carry the can. This has been a vanity project among councillors. Elaine Woodburn has invested her own reputation in it and that reputation has been left in tatters.”
Tory group leader David Moore said: “We hear that some £1.2 million has gone down the pan so those people who have been incompetent, not just in the council but across the board, must consider their future. They will know who they are.
“There has to be an inquiry, no reason why there shouldn’t be. This is £1.2m which might have been available to the public but we don’t know how it’s been spent, exactly what and why bad decisions have been made. Why also continued advice and legitimate questions have gone unheeded. I have been constantly frustrated because every time I have raised a question in council I’ve been stonewalled and told things are confidential.
Mr Moore said last week that Pow Beck should be scrapped altogether and other potential sports sites looked at such as Hensingham’s Copeland Stadium but he also asks how the community would wish to see £5.5million best spent.
“A sports stadium seems an easy win but there are lots of schemes right across the borough from Cleator Moor to Millom (for example ice rinks, extreme indoor sports centres, better swimming pools) that might come into the reckoning.”
Mr Moore said that if Whitehaven RLFC were still interested in going it alone, as a previous board of directors was, then he thought the club should be given the £500,000 which he believed BNFL originally wanted them to have.
“A lot of that money has been sucked away in the cost of trying to prove Pow Beck is feasible but I think it falls on Britain’s Energy Coast to hand it back so the rugby league club can ‘do up’ the Recre if they still want to,” he argued.
Alistair Norwood added: “Officers and certain members need to consider their positions. The fiasco shows a weakness in the current Cabinet system whereby a small group of people influence the whole council.
“Copeland Council has to be more democratic with less power in the hands of a few individuals who may or may not use it for the good of the borough.
“We must insist on a full independent inquiry over what’s happened here.
Copeland needs to know how much money has gone in to this – it’s a big black hole I personally think that £1.2million is an under-statement, I think it is a lot more.
“People have been doing work connected to this but it has gone under the guise of this, that or the other.
“If this going to be the way things are run in Copeland with secret huddles and unaccountability of the leader of the council then perhaps it is time Copeland went to an elected Mayor system. Surely this would be more representative.”
A full independent inquiry should be carried out by the local authority Standards Board, it should be open to members of the public and the press to give their own input. It should also have the power to discipline and to let people go, in other words be sacked.”
First published at 11:09, Thursday, 03 May 2012
Published by http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk
Have your say
Are we kidding ourselves that Whitehaven are of Super League standard??
Who says the money can't be used elsewhere. The funding comes from a socio-economic pot for West Cumbria and for Copeland. No one has decided it can only be spent on the half a stadium in the Pow Beck. Copeland BC is only continuing with this white elephant so Elaine Woodburn can save face.
Now is the time to ditch it and spend the money on something which will make a difference to more than a few hundred rugby watchers.
How about resurrecting Whitehaven town centre? Or the harbour hotel we've been after for so long?
View all 14 comments on this article