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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Copeland cuts confirmed

A DEVASTATING cull of services in Copeland has been confirmed.

Almost every service cut proposed by Copeland Council will happen, it was decided at a budget-setting meeting last night (Thursday). These include the closure of Whitehaven’s tourist information centre and all the borough’s public toilets, as well as the cancellation of Christmas lights, the concessionary travel scheme and doorstep collections of cardboard and plastic recycling.

The council will also withdraw funding to North Country Leisure (NCL), the operators of Whitehaven Civic Hall and Cleator Moor Bowls and Sports Centre, and both venues will close unless alternative financial arrangements are found; the Civic in November and the Bowls Centre in April.

Funding will also be reduced to two other NCL-managed facilities, Whitehaven Sports Centre and Copeland Swimming Pool, but these are expected to remain open, albeit with potential reduced opening hours and increased charges.

The council will also withdraw funding to The Beacon museum, although talks are ongoing between the council and Sellafield Ltd to keep this facility running.

It will reduce the frequency of public grass cutting, and remove street furniture (seating, bollards, gazebos etc) and public flower displays. Charges will also increase for council-owned car parks, cemeteries and crematoriums.

The only service to be spared the axe is garden (brown bin) collections. These collections will continue, but will cease during winter months. Plans to charge residents for having black bins replaced have been scrapped.

Copeland Council has been forced to slash services after having a third of its budget cut by the government. It was the eighth-worst-hit council in the country and must save around £3 million by 2015.

Christmas lights in Whitehaven, Cleator Moor and Cleator will continue this year and next but stop in 2015. All the other cuts will be introduced in April.

Around 20 jobs will be lost in the cuts, a reduction from the anticipated 30 to 40. However, a number of employees have already left and will not be replaced.

Elaine Woodburn, leader of Copeland Council, said: "This is the worst report I have ever had to put before the council, and this is not a good day for Copeland.

"This budget will diminish the quality of life of the people we represent, but we have no choice but to introduce it. But this is not Copeland's decision - it was made in Downing Street."

There had been hopes that some more of the under-threat services could have been saved, but just before Christmas the grant the council received from the government was revealed to be even lower than anticipated.

David Moore, leader of Copeland's Conservative group, said: "Despite these cuts, there are things in Copeland to be proud of, and it's time we - as councillors - earned our crust and carried out some hard work in our communities."

Copeland formally proposed the cuts in October, and they were sent out for public consultation. The response included 280 completed questionnaires, over 30 individual letters, three petitions and online protest groups.

The council continues to urge community groups to step forward and take on some of the services that the council will no longer pay for, and chief executive Paul Walker says that negotiations are ongoing with a number of interested parties.

However, the proposed partnership between The Beacon and Sellafield has been made public and it will see the facility run as a visitor centre, possibly with a tourist information centre incorporated. A formal agreement must be reached by April this year.

Prior to the meeting, the mayor of Copeland sent best wishes on behalf of the council to its communications manager, Ian Curwen, who suffered a broken back in a cycling accident at the weekend. Peter Tyson said: "All members send their best wishes to Ian for a full and speedy recovery."

 

The following will happen on April 1:

  • Whitehaven tourist information centre will close
  • Public toilets will close, including James Street (Whitehaven), Cleator Moor Square, Chapel Street (Egremont) and St Bees foreshore
  • grass cutting on open spaces reduced to one or two cuts a year (down from 14)
  • the concessionary travel scheme will be withdrawn
  • plastic and cardboard recycling will not be collected from doorsteps
  • car park charges to go up by 22p for one hour, and 70p for four hours
  • a 15 per cent increase on cemetery prices, and a 12 per cent increase for the crematorium. Increases will also be made to some taxi licence charges.
  • flower tubs and public displays will be removed, and street furniture not replaced when it reaches the end of its life
Have your say

I visited Whitehaven yesterday, and was amazed by the public toilet situation. We walked along the harbour front, admiring the conspicuous wealth on display in the marina. All those elaborate artistic fitments on the quayside - but no toilets. We followed the clearly visible signs up through the market-place. There are the toilets: closed.
I grew up in West Cumbria and was educated at Whitehaven Grammar School, but have lived and worked in Essex, so have not been following this issue as it developed.

It does not take much imagination to think of those who need toilets: surely we all do. But pregnant women, IBS sufferers, those with toddlers, the elderly... all of these need easy access to facilities.

I'm very surprised that it is not a legal duty to provide at least one set, in a town the size of Whitehaven.

Posted by anne on 10 April 2013 at 10:02

The bus pass is issued by the county council. Having called in to Whitehaven library today, where the county council office is located, I was assured that the bus pass facility is not being withdrawn. Well done the county council.

Posted by Observer on 5 March 2013 at 16:15

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