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Thursday, 30 July 2015

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Council cuts move closer

A DEVASTATING cull of services in Copeland looks set to become a reality.

Almost every service cut proposed by Copeland Council is set to happen. 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.

Under its proposed budget and pending final approval next week, 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 in November unless alternative financial arrangements are found.

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

The only service to be spared the axe is garden (brown bin) collections. It is now planned that collections will continue, but they will cease during winter months. Plans to charge residents for having black bins replaced have also 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.

All the proposals were agreed by Copeland Council’s Executive councillors this week, and pending agreement by the full council on February 21, they will be introduced in April.

Christmas lights in Whitehaven, Cleator Moor and Cleator will continue this year and next but stop in 2015.

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

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

Coun George Clements said: “This government does not care about how much we are having to save, and how much this will affect residents.” Coun Gillian Troughton added: “It is with a mix of sadness and anger at this government settlement, and trying to set a budget in these circumstances.”

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.

Pending approval from full council next week, the following will happen in April:

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

Other cuts include a reduction in mayoral responsibilities, stopping some arts and sports development schemes, and the cancellation of Copeland Matters. Other savings are being made by the council adjusting its internal operations.

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. Chief executive Paul Walker said that negotiations are ongoing with a number of interested parties, although no specifics can be given at this stage.

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.

Have your say

The council propose to close the only public toilet due to lack of funds but can find money to spray paint dog muck on waste ground near haig pit,but the same enforcers somehow failed to see the camp built of asbestos and played in during the school hols last week. The dog muck is an eyesore and should be dealt with but so should the irresponsible person who dumped assbestos on the ever incearsing waste dump which the council seem to ignore

Posted by bill on 21 February 2013 at 16:59

What Copeland need is a complete change of direction. The academic ability of this council is extremely poor and it is time that these councillors recognised that they do not have the ability to make the decisions that they are making.

Posted by fed up on 21 February 2013 at 11:19

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