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Saturday, 22 November 2014

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Ian Rule asks: Why is Copeland left picking up the bill?

WE are always beset by political problems. What seems to me to be special about the present is that most of our problems derive from two sources. The first is debt; the second is a constitutional issue.

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IAN RULE: Former chairman, Copeland Liberal Democrats

Recently, many countries have run into economic problems through debt: some through their National Debt being unsustainable, the fault of their politicians; some through personal debt and some through catastrophic failure of the banking system.

In Britain, the biggest of these three problems was disregard for the National Debt, mainly by Blair and Brown.

Do you remember Blair trying to convince you that a war against Iraq would cost nothing? Remember the sanctioning of a Millennium Dome when they could not decide what to put in it!

My question is, why does the bill have to be picked up by Copeland in particular? Neighbouring boroughs have not shed their civic halls, museums, public toilets and other facilities.

By the way, there still are toilets under the multi-storey car park but they are locked. (Hush Ian, they’ll hear you and rush out to demolish them!)

Seriously, though, coming to an arrangement to re-open these facilities would allow market stallholders and their customers access to toilets and possibly go some way to saving Whitehaven market.

Contrast the situation in Copeland with the situation in Liberal Democrat-run South Lakeland, where the Lib Dems have built a base of sound finances which enables them to consider a modest development of services.

The fact is that Copeland Borough Council has struggled to manage our finances for decades; this came to light during audits in the 1990s.

The electorate has woken up to this fact and many are pressing for a change in the way the borough is run on a day-to-day basis. It is suggested that the current council leader and Executive be replaced with a directly elected mayor and cabinet. In truth there is little difference and there would be no significant saving.

The constitutional issue is one that we must address. We already have devolved government in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so we are on the road to a federal system. England has no equivalent level of power, and this affects all of us.

Liberal Democrats are therefore calling for a full UK Constitutional Convention to resolve these differences and at the same time examine the best way to reorganise local government to achieve genuine and open local democracy, allowing councils or their successors real power, whilst being fully answerable to local communities.

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