Following the calls from members of the Labour party for a new election for our Copeland mayor, let us remind ourselves why 74 per cent of those who voted in the mayoral election last year did not vote for the Labour candidate.

  • They left a £13m black hole in the local authority accounts;
  • Over £1m of bad debt going back 20 years had to be written off;
  • £500k in loans they gave out had to be written off because they never kept any record of who they had loaned the money to;
  • They took a mortgage out (PFI) on the Copeland Centre, the deal being that they had to make annual payments of £892,000 for 25 years and pay all the maintenance cost during that term, at the end of which they then had to move out because they didn’t own the building;
  • They took out an interest-only loan they did not need of £5m in 2002 – they just put it in a deposit account where it has earned on average less than 2% annually. But on this loan the council had to pay £378k a year for 40 years – an eye-watering £15,120,000 in interest payments plus give the £5m back in 2042.
  • On leaving office in 2015, the Labour-run council did not employ a single qualified accountant, the organisation had long-term vacancies in all key departments with more than 20 consultants and interims filling roles, some earning the equivalent of £135k pa.

All the above and more have been successfully addressed by Mike Starkie with a smaller budget than the previous Labour administration, which is why last year’s mayoral election delivered such an emphatic result and why Mike should continue in his role. He is, quite simply, the people’s choice.


Conservative councillor for Scafell & Black Combe

Don’t play us for fools

I DON’T know how others feel following the announcement by the elected mayor of his new-found party loyalty. I’m quite hurt and disappointed.

My political views are moderate, it takes something big for me to pass comment and most of my opinions are formed from local politics by reading this very paper and watching the news (social media is too vitriolic and toxic).

In recent years, politics has become even more divisive – it seems to be a game of trading insults and casting aspersions. It seems we have no leadership and governance any more, just a continuous canvassing campaign.

We have party politics at parish, town, county, and police and crime commissioner levels. There’s always a barrier to progress when you have to put a party stance before people’s priorities. I voted for Mike Starkie on an independent mandate because I wanted unbiased decisions to be made about an area I love. Cumbria doesn’t belong to Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem or anybody, it belongs to Cumbrians.

I can’t shake the feeling we’ve been taken for mugs, I have the impression an Independent mandate was suitable for the Copeland mayor position but a bigger campaign budget and some political clout will be required for a Mayor of Cumbria.

I was dubious when Mike waded into party politics to usurp the Labour/Lib Dem county coalition because I actually like Stewart Young, he’s performed well with social care.

I gave Mike Starkie the benefit of the doubt when he backed Trudy Harrison at the 2019 general election, but it seems to me this has been cooked up for a while. That’s what upsets me more, the cloak-and-dagger, smoke-and-mirrors aspect of it all which is exactly why party politics is such a nasty business.

I would like to think of myself as a loyal person, honest and open-minded, and I would like to see these qualities in politics. What I would like to see is a Conservative candidate for mayor who has supported the party consistently and loyally for some time, not someone who has joined to further their own agenda. I would like to see the same from Labour, a bit of ingenuity and quality and I would really like to see a straight-talking, team-playing independent candidate.

The thing about who represents us locally is it isn’t to prop up parliament, it’s to prop up your neighbour. Please don’t play us for fools as potential voters, treat us like people.



Labour lost seats

If the mayor had stood as a Conservative in 2015 I feel his margin of victory would have been even greater. I also feel we would have had a greater number of Conservative councillors elected on to Copeland council.

Voters could vote for Labour councillors safe in the knowledge that Labour were not going to be leading the council.

The evidence of the above is all around: in every other council in Cumbria except Barrow, Labour lost seats. In Copeland, along with the rest of the county, Labour were trounced in the county council elections and seven months after the mayoral election Trudy Harrison won her third and most emphatic victory over Labour in three years. Labour also lost long-held seats in Barrow and Allerdale.

My understanding is a key driver for the mayor aligning with the Conservatives is down to frustration with the Labour-led coalition of losers at Cumbria County Council preventing/obstructing millions of pounds of investment into Copeland, which I have no doubt we will hear more about.


Conservative councillor for Gosforth and Seascale Ward

Leadership in Cumbria

I HAVE a somewhat different observation of where we where and where we are going than Coun David Moore, Conservative group leader at Copeland.

In the first weeks of the pandemic I spoke with county council leader Stewart Young who informed me the county was paying £700,000 a month for PPE for care home staff from already badly depleted funding for the county finances after several years of dramatic cuts from Conservative governments.

With these dramatic cuts – £200m-plus – seeing the county going into reserves, something had to be done. The three group leaders of the county council had virtual meetings with the Cumbrian MPs, five Conservative and the Lib Dem, and an agreement was agreed in principle that the MPs would sign a letter to the government highlighting the shortage of funding that was depleting said funds and that help was needed in the near future,

I understand the letter was not signed by the Conservative MPs but was by the Lib Dem, Tim Farron.

Life after the pandemic and devolution was to be initiated by the housing, communities and local government minister. Stewart Young was and still is awaiting for that invitation. There was an initiative from Copeland and the other districts of which Stewart Young wouldn’t take part in sadly because of a fractured relationship between him and Mayor Starkie, something we’re trying to fix.

As regards Tony Lywood, we had a fantastic candidate but sadly Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn not being popular determined the outcome of the election. Upwards and onwards on a long and winding road ahead...


Labour Group leader, Copeland Borough Council

Loss of Trust over mine opposition

It is with considerable disappointment I note that the Cumbria Wildlife Trust is opposing WCM’s application to extract coking coal off the coast of St Bees (The Whitehaven News, June 24).

I note the comments by Stephen Trotter the Trust’s chief executive, with dismay. If he had taken time to understand that this coal is to be used solely for the production of steel (a commodity which will be required well into the future) he would realise that home produced coking coal reduces the overall carbon footprint from that of the current practice of shipping it halfway around the world.

How refreshing it is, then, that after their evaluation, Natural England conclude “no adverse effects on the integrity of the designated sites in question”.

I have subscribed to and been a member of Cumbria Wildlife Trust for many years now. This will cease forthwith.


St Bees

Work together and thrive

I am grateful to county councillor Frank Morgan (The Whitehaven News letters, June 10) for informing us what the three reasons given by Highways England were explaining why the proposed Whitehaven relief road has not yet made it into the government’s investment strategy. All are indeed valid reasons, but hopefully we should be able to do something about each, especially if we all work together.

Taking them in reverse order, he refers to the lack of an approved Copeland Local Plan. This is something that must indeed be rectified: we need a local plan in place to be able to make and sustain the right planning decisions for Whitehaven and the rest of the area covered by Copeland as a planning authority. At the present time the borough and county councils are indeed working together to ensure that it includes sensible, robust and sustainable proposals to safely get people to and from the proposed development sites.

Secondly, we are told that uncertainty about the nuclear industry contributed to the problem. This is something which is essential to resolve and improvements to the substandard A595 are absolutely critical. It is pleasing to see that our MP, Trudy Harrison, in her capacity as Vice Chair of the all-party parliamentary group on nuclear energy, is in talks with major companies including Rolls Royce and EDF concerning new nuclear build in Cumbria with the support of Copeland Borough Council. Full support for subsequent proposals from our county council is not only essential but expected.

The first reason given was basically a consequence of the other two – we need a local plan to show how developments can be unlocked by improvements in our transport infrastructure, thus aiding the possibility of any new nuclear investment. National investment, we all recognise, is essential for the long-term future for our area, and indeed for the rest of the country. The expertise and knowledge within our area are second to none and this must be recognised in future national planning.

At this moment we all recognise the future will bring more and more economic and social uncertainty, both locally and nationally. Divided we may continue to struggle in the face of competition, especially given our relative isolation in West Cumbria. What is needed at the present time is all politicians at whatever level within the county and borough to be working together as much as possible.

Pressure on the public purse is much stronger from a united front. Our legacy, often built on political division, should now be one much more dependent upon a consensus approach, whereby future planning strategies are delivered to a standard beyond simple political points scoring.

In addition across the three tiers of local government, we must move away from the often fragmented approach and work together much more for real consensus to evolve.

Party politics will always have a place in a democratic society, but at this time we must all strive for more understanding and cohesion to face the struggles ahead for those of us fortunate enough to live in such a beautiful area of the UK.

We can do all this if we work together. Let’s get on with it.