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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Cumbria council leader disappointed at Knowles quit decision

Cumbria County Council leader Eddie Martin has expressed his disappointment at the resignation of Tim Knowles who held the authority’s nuclear brief.

Tim Knowles photo
Tim Knowles

Councillor Knowles quit his transport and environment portfolio role in protest at the cabinet’s shock decision that has stalled any moves to create an underground nuclear waste store in the west of the county.

In his parting shot, which he announced at Thursday’s cabinet meeting, he said he felt that he had no choice but to resign following last month’s no vote.

He added: “When a council leader makes comments such as ‘I am not prepared to prostitute our Cumbrian soul and heritage for a few silver coins’, apparently associating them with years of work by members, officers and Cumbrian partners, I think we are entitled to ask what sort of leadership he is providing?

“It's a very old fashioned thing called a matter of principle, I can not work in an executive group that has taken a decision that I fundamentally disagree with and is going to prejudice the interest of the people I represent.”

The announcement was met with a round of applause from several Sellafield workers who had attended the cabinet meeting and were in the public gallery. Mr Martin said he understood Mr Knowles’s frustration.

He added: “I am disappointed that he’s chosen to leave in the way he has. I thought it was melodrama and histrionics.”

Mr Martin said that he stood by the cabinet decision and added that he had seen a council officer’s report, written in 2008, which advised the authority not to progress with an underground nuclear repository. He said that Mr Knowles had worked well as part of the cabinet in the past. “For the last three years we’ve got on very well and I respect his opinion.

He said he was going to resign if he lost the vote.

“I’d prefer that he was inside the tent rather than outside. I am sorry to see him go but I understand his feelings, I think he went over the top, I’ve welcomed his support over the years.”

Mr Knowles had been responsible for the atomic energy industry as part of his portfolio role and he was a strong supporter of exploration continuing to see if Cumbria was suitable to host a repository.

He was bitterly disappointed by his authority’s decision to pull out of the running to be considered.

Copeland and Allerdale council were in favour of the move to the next stage – but it needed a yes vote at both county and district level to move forward to find a suitable site. Mr Martin and Councillor Stewart Young, the county council’s deputy leader, sent a letter to Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, outlining the reasons behind the decision.

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