The man at the helm of Whitehaven Town Council said he considered resigning after controversy hit the authority - but the love he felt for his town was keeping him going.

Brian O’Kane said the last two years had been difficult for the town council, which found itself at the centre of social media attacks.

The latest criticism levelled at Mr O'Kane in particular came when a donation from the council was made to his son-in-law Lee Butterworth to help with his campaign to distribute sanitiser and PPE in the local area during the coronavirus pandemic.

It transpired Mr O'Kane had not declared a conflict of interest at the time.

He said: “I thought about resigning several times because of the pressure that’s put on by social media.

“I stayed because I live here and my family, my children, my grandchildren live here. If I’d done anything wrong, I’d walk away.”

Mr O'Kane added: “In many respects the town council is very young and it’s taken time to find its feet.This is the bottom rung of politics, we want to do lots of things but a lot of them are responsibility of the borough and county council, people expect so much so quickly.”

Mr O’Kane said everyone serving as a councillor was a volunteer, but everything the authority did had to be within its remit and legal limitations sometimes brought about frustration.

He added that during the early days of the authority, mistakes were made. “We didn’t have the right staff to give us guidance, to take us on the path where we should have been and that makes people wary - it’s been a massive learning curve," he said.

Mr O’Kane said the council had done many positive things for the town, but those had been forgotten due to the recent controversies. He said the council had worked hard to improve St Nicholas gardens, taking over the historic Whitehaven News building, and providing PPE to care settings in the town by pooling unused ward grants from councillors.

He added that social media had been a blessing and curse.

“Everybody is entitled to their opinion, I can be very opinionated myself, but it’s the deliberate hate and name calling - when somebody calls you a thief and has the audacity to call you sticky fingers, calling people bankrupt, a thug, the words used are deliberately hurtful


“Anybody on the town council is there as a resident to help the town. People that are on the council have to gel.”