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Thursday, 30 July 2015

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Council leader agrees to elected mayor debate

COPELAND Council leader Elaine Woodburn has agreed to take part in a live debate over the future of decision-making in Copeland.

By Julie Morgan

But she warns an elected mayor will not help slash £1.35million from next year’s budget and might not support the nuclear industry.

The Time for Change group wants Bern Birbeck to sit down with Coun Woodburn in the run-up to May 22 referendum into whether the borough should have a directly elected mayor.

“We feel the best way forward is to have a one-to-one debate with Elaine Woodburn, through the media,” said Mr Birbeck. “We believe Coun Woodburn has been inconspicuous over the last seven months for a number of reasons. The public would like to hear from her – not one of her deputies. This offer of a debate is dependent upon Coun Woodburn accepting, we will only debate with her. The public deserve nothing less than the leader herself.”

However, Coun Woodburn said: “I’m disappointed the group has not been in touch with me directly. However, the referendum is such an important issue that I would be more than happy to participate in a well-managed debate. It’s crucial voters get all the facts, though, rather than just the ‘yes’ campaign’s belief that things will be better once ‘Woodburn is out’.

“The £1.4million we need to save next year will still be there. Losing the chief executive may save £75,000 but his statutory duties must still be carried out, at a cost. And where will the other £1.325million come from?’’ she asked.

“Neither a mayor nor the council can change how many councillors we have (and therefore what allowances are paid). But we’ve asked the Boundary Commission to reassess the number of councillors, so hopefully allowances can be dramatically reduced.

“The current system does not stifle the voice of councillors – they are very vocal and people all over the borough are extremely well represented. An elected mayor need not necessarily be supportive of the nuclear industry – how will that work?”

And she added: “I understand how people feel towards the council in difficult times. But losing so much of our budget meant cuts had to be made, and the fact that all councillors, including the opposition, voted for them, says there was no choice.”

A meeting in Millom last month into the elected mayor referendum descended into chaos when a group of senior councillors was banned from attending. Time for Change campaigners said in a statement: “The campaign acknowledges that the meeting was of a controversial nature, and that councillors from the north of the borough were upset at being excluded from proceedings. We apologise to Copeland borough councillors but we had promised that this was for Millom residents only.’’

Campaigners said a larger number of Millom residents than expected attended and they wanted “to provide an open forum for residents to express their feelings without feeling threatened and or intimidated by local governance.’’

Another meeting due to be held next Monday at Bootle has now been cancelled. Campaigners said: “As a result of the Millom meeting, where the public didn't get the chance to hear all the facts, and due to the controversial nature of the meeting, the Time For Change Campaign have regrettably decided to cancel the Bootle meeting.”

Have your say

The Council Leader reiterates, once more, what everyone should be aware of - namely Copeland Borough councillors numbers cannot be voluntarily reduced. That fact has been reported a number of times and it's governed by law until a review in the not too distant future. In the meantime I and others, many times, have called for councillors to VOLUNTARILY reduce their allowances (and mileage expenses) by half in these financially restrained times. That would achieve the, quote, 'dramatic reduction in allowances' the Council Leader seeks. Not one councillor or officer has ever answered the halving of allowances idea. One councillor did, publicly and proudly, declare that he did not claim any expenses - and when asked again about reducing allowances - silence ensued. Simple arithmetic - if you cannot halve the number of councillors then halve the cash paid to these "volunteers" (who, after all, have the community wellbeing at heart) and one can achieve the same result. Simple, as my Russian meerkat friends would say.

Posted by Rob 2 on 8 May 2014 at 16:52

So Ms Woodburn states she supports the Nuclear Industry, I'm sure she was on record to slate the pay rise given to Sellafield Ltd employees not so long ago... Maybe she has forgotten the amount of Copeland workers employed there and paying Council Tax, spending money in the few shops left in the area and supporting the rest of the local economy? Make your mind up please.

Posted by Dizzy Rascal on 8 May 2014 at 12:17

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