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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Copeland’s dark day as services slashed to save money

A cull of services in Copeland has been confirmed.

Elaine Woodburn photo
Elaine Woodburn

Almost every service cut proposed by Copeland Council will happen, it was decided at a budget setting meeting last night.

These include the closure of Whitehaven’s tourist information centre and all the borough’s public toilets, as well as the cancellation of Christmas lights, the concessionary travel scheme and doorstep collections of cardboard and plastic recycling.

The council will also withdraw funding to North Country Leisure (NCL), the operators of Whitehaven Civic Hall and Cleator Moor Bowls and Sports Centre, and both venues will close unless alternative financial arrangements are found; the civic in November and the bowls centre in April.

Funding will also be reduced to two other NCL-managed facilities, Whitehaven Sports Centre and Copeland Swimming Pool, but these are expected to remain open, albeit with potential reduced opening hours and increased charges.

The council will also withdraw funding to The Beacon museum, although talks are ongoing between the council and Sellafield Ltd to keep this facility running.

It will reduce the frequency of public grass cutting, and remove street furniture (seating, bollards, gazebos etc) and public flower displays. Charges will also increase for council-owned car parks, cemeteries and crematoriums.

The only service to be spared the axe is garden collections. These collections will continue, but will cease during winter months. Plans to charge residents for having black bins replaced were scrapped.

Copeland Council has been forced to slash services after having a third of its budget cut by the Government. It was the eighth-worst-hit council in the country and must save around £3m by 2015.

Christmas lights in Whitehaven, Cleator Moor and Cleator will continue this year and next but stop in 2015. All the other cuts will be introduced in April.

Around 20 jobs will be lost, a reduction from the anticipated 30 to 40. However, a number of employees have already left and will not be replaced.

Council leader Elaine Woodburn said: “This is the worst report I have ever had to put before the council, and this is not a good day for Copeland.

“This budget will diminish the quality of life of the people we represent, but we have no choice but to introduce it. But this is not Copeland’s decision – it was made in Downing Street.”

There had been hopes that some more of the under-threat services could have been saved, but just before Christmas the grant the council received from the Government was revealed to be even lower than anticipated.

David Moore, leader of Copeland’s Conservative group, said: “Despite these cuts, there are things in Copeland to be proud of, and it’s time we – as councillors – earned our crust and carried out some hard work in our communities.”

Copeland formally proposed the cuts in October and they were sent out for public consultation.

The council continues to urge community groups to step forward and take on some of the services that the council will no longer pay for.

However, the proposed partnership between The Beacon and Sellafield has been made public and it will see the facility run as a visitor centre, possibly with a tourist information centre incorporated. A formal agreement must be reached by April.

  • Councillors have agreed to forgo some of their expenses – with the cash instead being put into the local community.

A total of £32,000 will be raised by a number of allowances for councilors' responsibilities being stopped from April.

They include the decision-making executive reducing its number by one – although the councillors' identity has not been decided – and the mayor, his deputy and a number of committee chairs forgoing extras they had previously claimed.

Of the saving, £20,000 will be given to the Citizens Advice Bureau to assist those who will soon impact from the new welfare reform.

Councillors agreed the move at last night's meeting.

Council leader Elaine Woodburn said: "While we are not allowed to reduce the number of councillors, members felt that they wanted to make a personal contribution.

"While this does not make the budget cuts any more palatable, we feel it goes some way to showing we will do anything we can to mitigate the impact on the residents of Copeland."

Have your say

What whitehaven needs is a town council. In Workington its the town council that does things like Xmas lights and so on.

Posted by John on 26 February 2013 at 09:35

So whitehaven is just about closed then, as they will have nothing to encourage people to visit the once grand Georgian town.
Shame as Whitehaven has so much history, if people only take the time to look, but people still need to be told about these buildings etc, but how will that happen, with no TIC.

Posted by Tracey A on 25 February 2013 at 11:25

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