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Thursday, 02 October 2014

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Civic Hall and Beacon set to close - full list of shock cuts revealed

WHITEHAVEN’S Civic Hall, Beacon museum and Tourist Information Centre are all set to CLOSE in a devastating cull of services.

Beacon photo
The Beacon, Whitehaven

The Whitehaven News can exclusively reveal today that Christmas lights are set to be cancelled, public toilets closed and flower displays removed in a bid by Copeland Council to slash £2.6 million from its budget by 2015.

Between 30 and 40 jobs will be lost and affected staff have been told.

Other shock proposed cuts include:

  • CLOSING Cleator Moor Bowls Centre
  • CHARGING residents to have garden waste (brown) bins collected
  • CANCELLING doorstep collections of cardboard and plastic recycling
  • STOPPING the concessionary travel scheme
  • REDUCING the frequency of public grass cutting
  • REMOVING street furniture (seating, bollards, gazebos etc)

In addition, the council plans to increase the fees it charges to use its car parks, cemeteries and crematorium.

All the proposals have been laid out by the council ahead of a public consultation being officially launched tomorrow (Friday), subject to approval being granted by a special meeting of the full council today.

A decision on the cuts will be taken in February, and although the public is invited to have a say before then, the proposals WILL be enforced unless viable alternatives can be found or other groups step forward to run and pay for the services themselves.

Elaine Woodburn, leader of Copeland Council, says she is “heartbroken” to announce the drastic moves.

The decision has been forced upon the authority, she says, after the government significantly reduced its local council funding.

The council plans to withdraw all funding to Whitehaven Civic Hall, The Beacon museum and Cleator Moor Bowls Centre, meaning they will close next year unless partner organisations can be found to operate them without any council money.

Council funding to Whitehaven Sports Centre and Copeland Pool – both owned by the council but managed by Hexham-based North Country Leisure – will be reduced, but the facilities will remain open.

The Tourist Information Centre will close in April, it is proposed, and the public toilets (including in James Street, Whitehaven) in April.

Christmas lights will not hang in Whitehaven, Cleator Moor and Cleator from 2015 onwards, and all public flower displays, hanging baskets and tubs will be removed from April.

Coun Woodburn said: “None of us want to make these cuts or close any of these facilities, but we have no choice but to balance the books.

“There is no pot of gold – what we’ve got in reserve [£1.8 million] is the minimum that we legally have to. We are simply out of options.

“The places that are planned for closure have made a difference to people’s lives, and people have put their heart and soul into making them a success. It’s the impact this will have on people that is simply heartbreaking.”

By the end of March 2013, the council will have already saved almost £3 million since April 2010 by making internal savings to its operations, with its workforce dropping from 350 to 286.

The new proposals have been drawn up in a joint effort between the council’s Labour and Conservative groups. All the services that the council provides on a discretionary basis – those it chooses to offer – are being cut or reduced to save £2million, with the remaining £600,000 being saved by the council continuing to restructure its internal running costs and the services that it is legally obliged to provide. In government law, the council’s total budget after the cuts must drop to £9.5 million.

“The services we are looking to cut are all discretionary; we don’t have to provide them but we chose to,” added Coun Woodburn. “We have provided them for as long as we have been physically able to, but we can no longer do this. We can’t save what we need to without radical changes.

“Anyone is welcome to come in and go through our accounts to see where this money could be saved without doing what we’re doing.”
Copeland will be a smaller, more flexible council after the cuts, says Coun Woodburn, and a smaller staff will be needed to manage a reduced level of service.

Working with partners and the community will be key to the council’s future, says Alistair Norwood, Copeland Conservatives’ deputy leader. “I think the community will step up and do things that have previously been done by the council for themselves,” he said.

“The council will still be here, albeit less visible, but I am convinced that residents, community groups and parish councils will step up and take things forward. We want to hear from people who are willing to run services for themselves.”

Coun Woodburn added: “During the consultation, we genuinely want to hear from people who can take things forward and offer clear, well thought-out alternatives to what we are proposing.

“Simply saying ‘I don’t want The Beacon to close’ isn’t enough; we don’t want The Beacon to close either, but we simply can’t afford to keep it open. So we are asking people: how can this be done?

“But despite the cuts to come, things are still happening here. The Copeland Community Fund is there to support people, Albion Square will happen and new-build is in the works at Westlakes Science Park. This does not close the door on Copeland.”

Have your say

Town Crier....Well they wouldn't want to live in a dump or near a dump, would they?

Posted by It's me again on 20 October 2012 at 23:16

I have been told that at least 5 senior managers and a number of consultants who live outside Cumbria are paid extra to travel to and from and lodge in the area. Anybody from the council care to comment?

Posted by Town Crier on 18 October 2012 at 18:59

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