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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Whitehaven town council by 2015?

WHITEHAVEN could have its own town council as early as 2015 – if the community is in favour of it.

From January 15, members of the public will be able to give their views to Copeland Council on whether Whitehaven should have a town council, or two or more parish councils.

If it is formed, the new council would be funded by an extra charge (precept) from residents, raising money to pay for public services that could include toilets, play areas, grass-cutting or Christmas lights. A town/parish council can attract funding that a borough council cannot.

If it gets the go-ahead, elections for new councillors would be run alongside other local elections in May 2015.

Copeland councillor Peter Kane, the chair of the newly-formed panel that will oversee the process, said: “It’s important to emphasise that Copeland Council would not run a town council.

“It will be elected – not on a political basis but a community basis – and anyone can stand.”

The new councillors would not receive an allowance.

The first stage of the consultation will see a series of public drop-in sessions held in the seven unparished wards of Copeland, and meetings held with various businesses, schools, voluntary groups and other interested parties.

A short questionnaire will be available (hard copies and online) to gauge residents’ initial thoughts.

At the end of the first six-week consultation (February 25), the feedback will be analysed, and more concrete proposals including boundaries, number of councillors and cost, will be put out for a second consultation (estimated April 9 to May 21).

The final recommendations will then be made by the panel, to be agreed by the full council, late next year.

However, councillor Geoff Garrity said: “If people tell us that they don’t want this, then it won’t go any further than the first stage of the consultation.”

Whitehaven and Sandwith – totalling 11,643 homes – are the only unparished areas of Copeland, which dates back to a local government reorganisation in 1974, although some parts of Bransty and Sandwith are covered by the parish councils of Moresby and St Bees respectively.

It is estimated that a precept would range from around £30 a year for Band A properties to around £95 for Band H.

Councillor David Moore said: “Yes, it will cost people money, but people have to decide if what they will get will be worth a little extra.

“Seascale is a good example of things that have been paid for by the parish council once Copeland Council started to withdraw services.”

Copeland MP Jamie Reed has previously spoken of his support for the creation of a Whitehaven Town Council.

He said: “Theoretically, a town council may be able to raise between £300,000 and £500,000 per annum and this could be spent on amenities in the town centre.

“Away from private sector contributions and donations, this is the best, most readily achievable way to raise revenue.

“Expenditure like this could go a long way in augmenting and supporting the £1.4 million Heritage Lottery project in the town centre and the £20million-plus development of Albion Square.”

Details of the drop-in sessions and how residents can get involved in the consultation will appear in The Whitehaven News in the coming weeks.

Have your say

Whitehaven badly needs to reinvent itself, the one thing it has that Workington lacks is a beautiful harbour and seafront. Now, what do people who visit a seaside town expect? Well they want harbour-side cafes, Ice cream shops, gift shops, bars and eateries. Sure you CAN find a bar or meal on the harbour front, but should you wish to sit outside on a lovely summer evening and eat, well, that's ok, as long as you don't mind the traffic driving past and blasting you with exhaust fumes! They also expect toilets, and things to do, why not a daily small ferry trip to the isle of man? Why not a mini train ride along the harbour front, why not little café stalls on the harbour piers? Why not lots of small shops selling Cumbrian produce? Why allow more apartments on the harbour, surely the area of the town most visitors want to see and not allow more commerce in that area, bit insane to be strolling along the harbour on a summers day and having to cross several roads to have to go buy a bucket and spade for the kids!

Posted by Bev Wallace on 8 January 2014 at 12:26

Other reasons that Whitehaven is not doing so well is the lack of footfall. Workington is more central to other towns than Whitehaven.

But why should Joe Public suffer yet another layer of council bureaucracy with other council levels, whether they be parish or town councils? Should we not be REDUCING council bureaucracy?

Posted by Orange peel on 8 January 2014 at 09:13

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