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Thursday, 24 July 2014

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Extra £1m bombshell for council

COPELAND Council must save a further £1 million – which could result in yet more services and jobs being axed and the creation of a new town council for Whitehaven.

The latest round of cuts will “paralyse” Copeland, council leader Elaine Woodburn has warned, after it was revealed that a further £1 million must be saved by 2016, in addition to the £3 million already saved by slashing services and jobs.

A new raft of services is now at risk, and ways of generating income and cutting costs for Copeland are being explored, including the possibility of introducing a Whitehaven Town Council to take on some services with residents having to pay an extra charge on their council tax.

Whitehaven is the only area in Copeland without a town or parish council, and various unsuccessful attempts to form one have been made over recent years.

A Whitehaven Town Council would look after affairs specific to the town, and would be in addition to the existing borough and county councils and its members elected every four years. It could have either a chairman or a mayor, as Workington, Cockermouth and Millom do.

The precept – an extra sum added on to a resident’s council tax bill – would be set by the town council depending on what it wanted to provide, such as play areas, bus shelters or grass cutting. Existing precepts in Copeland range from less than £10 per year (Irton with Santon parish) to £48 per year (St Bees). Copeland residents pay a total of just under £454,000 to their respective parish councils each year.

There would be an additional cost to the taxpayer in terms of the governance of a town council, for costs such as elections and administrative fees, but the town council would be able to draw on funding that the borough and county councils cannot.

The last round of cuts, announced in February, saw the council withdraw funding to The Beacon, which has only been kept open after Sellafield intervened, and to Whitehaven Civic Hall, which will close in October unless a group comes forward to take it over. In addition, the council has closed public toilets and Whitehaven’s Tourist Information Centre, reduced grass cutting and doorstep recycling, and will cancel the Christmas lights it pays for from 2015. Copeland’s staff has dropped from 313 to 231 over the last three years.

Central government has since cut Copeland’s budget by a further 15.9 per cent in June’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

Coun Woodburn said: “This will paralyse our ability to provide services, but there are not many options left. This will cause pain for people, whichever way you look at it.”

Specific cuts are yet to be outlined, but the council will now look at all the discretionary services it offers – those which it doesn’t legally have to provide – to see where any cuts can be made. It will also review its council tax setup, its recycling programme, and its current fees and charges, including car parks and cemeteries, for any potential additional income.

The possibility of sharing services with other authorities will also be explored.

The council says that leisure services, in centres managed by North Country Leisure, will not be reviewed.

The new proposals will be discussed internally before being rolled out for public consultation in October and agreed next February.

Coun George Clements says it is “vital” that the public engages with the council over its plans when the consultation opens.

Coun Woodburn added: “People have got to understand that these are not our personal decisions, and we hate having to make them. These decisions are taken by central government, and we are left to pick up the pieces.”

Have your say

@Mike - the biggest waste of money was the consultants fees for the failed Pow Beck Sports Stadium. How that money would have been welcomed now to lessen the impact of the latest cuts!!!!

Posted by D R O'Dear on 2 September 2013 at 12:46

I spend most of my working day in Copeland. It is sad indeed to see the effects of the cuts made by CBC. While I have some sympathy with the arguments concerning central government cuts, that sympathy does not extend to those who run the Council and have mismanaged it.

Copeland hosts the UK's National Nuclear Waste reprocessing facility and you get paid peanuts in the form of Community Benefits and support when compared to other areas in the UK who host the infrastructure for other industries. One example:- Shetland and Aberdeen for big oil. I could go on.

What was it the PAC said? "Intolerable risk". Your councillors seem quite content to acquiesce with due deference to the demands the industry places upon your community rather than empowering your community to ensure it gets paid properly for what it hosts.

You voted for them. If you want more of the same, vote for them again. If you want something better, where your services can be up rated to what they should be (getting what you are owed) then let them know before the next election. - It really is that simple!

Posted by Colin Wales on 31 August 2013 at 20:05

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