CASH-STRAPPED council chiefs at Copeland are ramping up their money-making operations to offset plummeting Government handouts.

The authority has already reported “shocking” 99 per cent cut in Whitehall funding in the last five years, forcing the council to look at new ways to claw back vital income.

This latest big push for the council’s commercialisation drive was agreed by the executive yesterday and will now go before full council for consideration.

The plans have been revealed after the council confirmed that it has seen its Regional Support Grant slashed from £3.3million in 2015 to just £30,000 in 2020.

Mayor Mike Starkie, who has previously talked of the importance of running the authority like a business, described commercialisation as a “key pillar” of the authority’s strategy.

He also revealed that members of staff would be given the chance to raise suggestions for how the authority might make the most of the cash-generating ideas, with a series of brainstorming sessions due to be held “in the near future.”

He said: “It has been well-publicised but worth repeating that the Regional Support Grant that Copeland council has relied on for decades had disappeared. Central Government has stopped the handouts.

“We therefore have the choice of doing nothing and watching a bad situation get worse or we can grasp the nettle with both hands and take every opportunity we can to build and develop our commercial strategy which is the key to raising much-needed income.”

As part of the plans, Mayor Starkie will be holding a series of staff briefings to to help ensure that the council makes the most of the cash-generating “opportunities”.

Coun Steven Morgan described commercialisation as a “significant change” that would help the council create jobs, establish new ratepayers and encourage more of the region’s young people to stay in Copeland.

Describing the initiative as a “step in the right direction”, he claimed it would ultimately help raise revenue to “plug the hole” in future budgets and hopefully allow the council to provide improved services for residents.

Today’s meeting heard that the changes could also allow the council to deliver previously unfunded “discretionary services”.

But each of the possible council cash cows must be able to “wipe its face” – make enough profit to cover all its expenses and then generate some surplus revenue.

But coun Morgan also stressed that the commercial changes would not necessarily be accomplished “overnight”.

Some of the projects could require some investment and would not be producing profit in the first year or two but would be able to do so in the long-term.

Coun Morgan said: “This is a big deal and will require an awful lot of effort and it is of major significance to the future re-direction of the council business.”

Coun David Moore said the commercial drive would help promote a “change of culture” that would see members and council staff actively “looking out for opportunities”.

Council Chief executive Pat Graham added stressed that Copeland has been developing the commercial agenda for the last four years but had now reached the point where they could “step it up.”