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Copeland council to close Civic Hall, Beacon and public loos to save money

Plans to close Whitehaven’s Civic Hall, Beacon museum and tourist information centre in a desperate move to cut costs have been described as “an act of vandalism” by Copeland MP Jamie Reed.

Beacon photo
The Beacon, Whitehaven

It has also been revealed that Christmas lights are set to be cancelled, public toilets closed and flower displays removed by Copeland council after being told by the Government that it must slash £2.6m from its budget by 2015.

Between 30 and 40 jobs will be lost and affected staff have been told.

Other shock proposed cuts include:

  • closing Cleator Moor Bowls Centre
  • charging residents to have garden waste (brown) bins collected
  • cancelling doorstep collections of cardboard and plastic recycling
  • stopping the concessionary travel scheme
  • reducing the frequency of public grass cutting
  • removing street furniture such as seating, bollards and gazebos

In addition, the council plans to increase the fees it charges to use its car parks, cemeteries and crematorium.

All the services that the council provides on a discretionary basis - those it chooses to offer - are being cut or reduced to save £2m, with the remaining £600,000 being saved by the council continuing to restructure its internal running costs and the services that it is legally obliged to provide. In government law, the council’s total budget after the cuts must drop to £9.5m.

Mr Reed said: “The fact that all the political groups on Copeland council are facing up to the Government’s spending cuts and working together on how to mitigate the effects of these is welcome – but there can be no doubt that the sheer scale of the cuts imposed upon local government in Cumbria is an act of vandalism by the coalition government.

“Let’s consider what the Government has taken on top of these latest cuts: our courts, police stations, school funding, money from the hospital new build programme.

“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.”

All the proposals have been laid out by the council ahead of a public consultation being officially launched tomorrow, subject to approval being granted by a special meeting of the full council today.

A decision on the cuts will be taken in February, and although the public is invited to have a say before then, the proposals will be enforced unless viable alternatives can be found or other groups step forward to run and pay for the services themselves.

The new proposals have been drawn up in a joint effort between the council’s Labour and Conservative groups.

The council plans to withdraw all funding to Whitehaven Civic Hall, The Beacon museum and cafe and Cleator Moor Bowls Centre, meaning they will close next year unless partner organisations can be found to operate them without any council money.

Council funding to Whitehaven Sports Centre and Copeland Pool - both owned by the council but managed by Hexham-based North Country Leisure - will be reduced but the facilities will remain open. But they may face changes to opening hours and charges.

The tourist information centre will close in April, it is proposed, and the public toilets (including in James Street, Whitehaven) also in April.

Christmas lights will not hang in Whitehaven, Cleator Moor and Cleator from 2015 onwards, and all public flower displays, hanging baskets and tubs will be removed from April.

By the end of March 2013, the council will have already saved almost £3m since April 2010 by making internal savings to its operations, with its workforce dropping from 350 to 286.

Elaine Woodburn, leader of Copeland, said she was “heartbroken” to announce the cuts.

“None of us want to make these cuts or close any of these facilities, but we have no choice but to balance the books.

“There is no pot of gold – what we’ve got in reserve [£1.8 million] is the minimum that we legally have to. We are simply out of options.

“During the consultation, we genuinely want to hear from people who can take things forward and offer clear, well thought-out alternatives to what we are proposing.

“Simply saying ‘I don’t want The Beacon to close’ isn’t enough; we don’t want The Beacon to close either, but we simply can’t afford to keep it open. So we are asking people: how can this be done?" she added.

Have your say

Every one is blaming everyone else, look we all know why this is happening it is this awful governments policies, it seems its always the labour party to blame,they say, well at long last you are correct,
We have just spent 12 Billion pounds on rich peoples fun and Games in London, now that is the labour party's fault, now we as usual we pick up the tab,they are all to blame, i say we want Independence For Cumberland we should Join Scotland and get our own Parliament.

Posted by Danleo on 26 October 2012 at 12:30

I am sorry to see that a number of venues are closing due to lack of funds in Copeland, and I see that many people are angry and raising a petition.Our democracy and sovereign rights are being handed to the EU/Brussels every day yet very few of us pass any comment?If this coalition government, like the previous government would stop sending £55 million a day!!£1.5billion per month!!to this discredited EU club we would not need to close any amenity anywhere.Please ask your MP and councillors why we are continuing to support this empty vessel.

Posted by Michael Owen on 23 October 2012 at 16:33

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