‘We will all keep our town alive’ - the cuts response
Last updated at 11:20, Thursday, 18 October 2012
WE will not let Whitehaven die! That’s the defiant message from the community in response to Copeland Council’s potentially devastating proposals to cut services.
Within hours of the shock plans being announced in The Whitehaven News, online campaign groups had formed and petitions started to save the under-threat facilities, particularly the Civic Hall.
And Charles Maudling, chairman of Whitehaven Chamber of Trade, says that the town’s Christmas lights will NOT be lost – even if the council withdraws its funding, as proposed, in 2015.
“We will not let the Christmas lights die,” he said. “We raise funds throughout the year for the switch-on event (this year featuring X-Factor stars The Risk), but we aim to all work together to fund the lights themselves going forward.”
Mr Maudling, with colleagues from Whitehaven’s Town Team, is currently planning to organise a series of public meetings – details of which will be announced soon – to form an action plan to preserve some of the town’s other under-threat facilities and services.
Whitehaven Theatre Group says it may have to fold if the Civic Hall closes, leaving it with nowhere to perform. It has started a petition to gather support, urging the council to “seriously reconsider its options, and decide against what would be a grave mistake”.
Overwhelming support for the Civic has also come from Whitehaven’s music community, who fear the loss of the “hub of the town”, and from Inspiral Carpets legend and Civic regular Tom Hingley, who says it would be “a real shame if Whitehaven lost such a special venue”.
Copeland Council has been widely criticised in the wake of last week’s announcement, in which it proposes to save £2.6 million before 2015 by closing Whitehaven’s Civic Hall, Beacon museum and tourist information centre, Cleator Moor Bowls Centre and all public toilets in the borough. The council says that it has no choice but to make the drastic proposals after having its budget cut by the government.
Calls have also been made by the public for Copeland to cut the number of councillors it has, which currently stands at 51 who receive allowances totalling more than £200,000 a year. The council is unable to have this figure reduced until 2019.
Copeland’s spending has also attracted criticism. Its outgoing payments of over £500 are all detailed on its website (www.copeland.gov.uk), a number of which have been picked up on by social media sites, including £2,000 and £705 to Whitehaven shops Mr Pizza and Humbugs respectively. It has been revealed that these payments were actually made to the premises as shop-front improvement grants, not for goods or services.
Copeland also proposes to cancel Christmas lights in Whitehaven, Cleator Moor and Cleator; remove flower displays; charge residents to have garden waste collected and cancel doorstep cardboard and recycling collection. These services WILL be lost when Copeland withdraws its money, unless community groups take them on themselves. Between 30 and 40 Copeland Council employees will lose their jobs, it is proposed.
North Country Leisure (NCL) runs the Civic Hall and Bowls Centre, plus Whitehaven’s swimming pool and sports centre, on behalf of Copeland. The council proposes to withdraw all funding to the Civic Hall and Bowls Centre (resulting in their closure) and to reduce funding to the pool and sports centre (they will remain open, albeit with possible changes to charges and opening times).
NCL employs 135 staff across all four facilities and has not commented on potential job losses. It says however: “Our 135 staff members in Copeland work very hard to provide ‘Excellent Sports and Leisure for All’; we know their efforts are appreciated by local people and we will continue to consult and engage closely with them through this difficult time.”
Jamie Reed, Copeland’s Labour MP, has called the cuts an “act of vandalism” by the Coalition government.
He added: “The very fabric of our local civic society is being knowingly battered by this government. The even worse news is that the cuts won’t stop here – there will be more to follow, year after year until local government structures in Cumbria are rendered simply unviable.
“In the face of this, it remains true that our best days are still ahead of us, but this requires every single one of us to get involved in mitigating the effects of these cuts – not just the politicians. This affects each and every one of us.”
The Rev John Bannister, the rector of Whitehaven, says he is “deeply saddened and concerned” about the proposals.
“They pose a significant threat to the economic and social well-being of residents,” he added. “Much of this potential damage could have been avoided if Whitehaven had its own town council, as Egremont, Millom and Cleator Moor have. Whitehaven needs its own elected councillors to stand up for it and to work solely for the well-being of the town.”
Elaine Woodburn, leader of Copeland Council, said that all the public’s views will be considered when the final decisions are taken in February. She urged people to respond formally in the consultation process either at one of the public meetings or online at www.copeland.gov.uk.
The Beacon’s café – The Wellington Bistro – is unaffected by the cuts proposals. The café is leased directly from Copeland Council, run as a separate entity to the museum itself, and remains open for business.
First published at 11:08, Thursday, 18 October 2012
Published by http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk
Have your say
I agree with previous comment that there is more to this town than the harbour. A beautiful Georgian town just wasting away, it is criminal. But, to the person who said to shop local, I'm sorry but I bought something online for Â£5 and had been quoted Â£15 for the same thing in a local shop. I don't mind paying a bit of a premium to keep local shops going, but that is ridiculous.
Why when ever theres issues with funding in our town do people look to lean on sellafield?
Why cant we all just accept what we have and learn to manage with that.
If you compare our town with many other uk towns you wills ee that actully we are not too bad off.
People these days always want more and more and its people of these times who actully cause half these funding issues by trying to live outside their budgets!
Shopping local is great idea, but again supermarkets dont help as they undercut everyone and at the moment many familys are struggling to get by and we are all trying to save where we can so local shops will feel the pinch as people try to save every penny.
The goverments present and past are also not to blame... its you and i who are to blame for everyday funding issues, as we all sometimes try to spend what we aint got which puts pressure on the whole country.
People need to stop and think.. Stop trying to have the best of everything, accept what you have and enjoy it!
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