I'm not resigning, says council boss
Last updated at 11:22, Thursday, 10 May 2012
AFTER weeks of heavy criticism Copeland Council’s leader is defiant.
While there have been calls for her to quit, Elaine Woodburn says she isn’t going anywhere.
“No, I’m not resigning,’’ she said. “I made a commitment to this job and to Copeland. I live here and I want the best for the area.’’
She has been slammed for the rugby league stadium fiasco which has dominated the news.
“I understand people are angry,’’ Elaine said. The Powbeck Stadium she’d hoped would have been a “Wembley’’ for local kids. She remains “fully committed’’ to the project.
She is reluctant to point the finger of blame, but when pushed will admit she personally wouldn’t have laid aside the compulsory purchase order.
However, Elaine states: “The partnership (Whitehaven Rugby League Club, Whitehaven Amateurs, Cope-land and Britain’s Energy Coast) had a gentlemen’s agreement with the Miners who then reneged on the deal,’’ she claimed. “We then couldn’t give in to the Miners’ unaffordable demands.
“The Miners have lost an opportunity to improve long-term.’’
Over the years, Elaine has learnt to develop a thick skin, accepting criticism as part of political life.
“It is easy to blame me, and I know that goes with the job’’ she said, “but it does have an impact on my family. My younger brother gets hassled when he goes into pubs.
“Most people who approach me are positive,’’ she said, “they can see how difficult it is and we do what we can within limitations. I am honest if I get things wrong.
“But it is easy to be negative when you are anonymous. I can’t respond to those who criticise me if I don’t know who they are, so it looks like I don’t care.
“I admit we may not be getting it right when it comes to getting across to the public, particularly those who are ‘hard to reach’.
“I feel I am very open and approachable. I don’t just sit behind a desk shuffling papers,’’ she said. “I believe we need to get out in the community and I do visit lots of different organisations.’’
She has also been under-fire for her rumoured dictatorial-style of management.
“I have a strong majority and could lead in isolation, but I listen to opposition views,’’ Elaine said. “Maybe I was stupid when I believed we could work in partnership. I feel let down by them, they have thrown it back in my face.’’
She believes she has opened up local politics, formalised the appointment of opposition party mayors as well as allowing opposition councillors to chair council Scrutiny meetings.
Executive meetings are also open to the public and other members.
Responding to the criticisms of her decision-making Elaine states: “I am implementing plan and budget which was agreed by 51 members.’’
In her time as leader, Elaine says she has quickened the democratic process, tightening deadlines. “This is because more effort has to be made by the members,’’ she said. “They can’t say they didn’t know what is going on, they have to read the council papers. It is no longer laid on a plate for them.
“It is easy to criticise while in opposition,’’ Elaine said. “When things go right they are united with us.
“We should have a collective responsibility to improve the area.’’
If new businesses Googled Whitehaven they would wonder why they should come here following such recent negative publicity, Elaine said.
“Councillors, and the media, should be working together to attract businesses.’’
One area which continues to incense the public is the lack of shops in Whitehaven town centre. This where, Elaine believes, the Albion Square project, which she is leading, will inject some much-needed cash back into the local economy.
“We will have 700-900 well-paid workers in the town, encourage more businesses and high-quality shops,’’ she said. “We are developing a very difficult site, but I believe if we can develop there we can do it anywhere.
“I’ve had people say there will be congestion,’’ Elaine said.
It’s a price, along with the criticisms, Copeland’s leader believes, is worth paying for a thriving town.
First published at 11:09, Thursday, 10 May 2012
Published by http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk
Have your say
I do feel a very small bit of sympathy for Ms Woodburn as she is taking all the flak for the shambles. However, whatever happened to Councillors Knowles and Giel who were directors of the rugby club and were leading lights in driving the stadium forward mainly for the benefit of their club? Where is Paul Walker the main driver of the World Cup bid for Copeland? He was the one that was saying the World Cup would see bed and breakfast establishments filled during the cup period when I think most knowledegable rugby fans know that isn't going to happen with the teams allocated to west Cumbria. Where is the expensively paid consultant who should have known the problems of getting access through charity land long before plans got this far? I suppose as overseer of all of this then Ms Woodburn is culpable but lets hear from the others who seem to have sneaked away in to some dark corners.
Karl Connor was sacked by this woman for speaking his mind about the current state of the project.... Looks like he was right all along, I think he needs some sort of apology by the Copland Labour party that he stood for and only had there best intrests at heart
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