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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Cumbria goes to polls to elect new county council

Cumbrians are voting today to elect a new county council.

Cumbria elections map graphic
Cumbria: As things stand. Click here for larger image

It currently has a Conservative majority but not one large enough to secure overall power and the authority has operated as a Labour/Conservative coalition for the past four years.

Across the county issues have been raised by voters, anxious for action.

With its remote rural locations, public transport can prove to be a vital lifeline for some Eden residents.

Terry Bowes, manager of the Wetheriggs Conservation and Heritage Centre in Penrith, believes good affordable public transport is important in rural areas with some villages in the area only getting a bus service once a week.

"Some of the villages are looked after and some are not,” he said.

Michelle Rowe, from Crafty Monkeys in Penrith, said road safety was a concern, particularly in nearby Brunswick Road and Corney Square where she was based.

She said: “We tried once to do something about the crossing outside our studio. They have got to cross the one-way system but the traffic doesn’t reduce it’s speed.”

She added that one candidate she had spoken to had promised to look into the matter if they were elected. “She was looking at road safety in the area.”

Phil Graham, from Arragon Cycles in Penrith, said the state of the roads and the number of potholes was a big concern.

“The main thing is the condition of the roads. Selling bikes to people, and riding them myself around the county, there are some that are in a pretty bad state.”

He listed a number of blackspots including, sections in Penrith town centre, the A592 at Ullswater and Wigton Road - the B5305.

One concern in Allerdale is the cost of parking.

Alan Moore, a 64-year-old gym owner from Windscale, said: “The big thing for me is what are the politicians going to do to help people. I tried, along with other businesses in the town, to get the parking increased from half an hour to an hour on the high street. By the time you go to the post office or the bank your half hour is up.”

“At a local level that is a big issue for me and they are doing nothing about it,” he added.

Jonty Chippendale, chairman of Cockermouth Chamber of Trade, said he hoped local politicians would get things done for people rather than scoring political points against each other.

“We don’t need the roads digging up all the time and we need inexpensive parking so we can compete with the out-of-town sites,” he added.

Mr Chippendale said the county was also over-regulated with too much red tape.

“The biggest thing in Cumbria is that we have far too much local government. We could move to less – that would save upwards of £30 million.”

He added that the recent controversy over the county council’s departing chief executive might affect how people voted.

“They should remember when they are awarding silly pay offs all of that money has to be paid for by the sweat and blood of the people who elect them,” he said.

Last week it was revealed that senior councillors had approved the early retirement of 55-year-old Jill Stannard from her £170,000 post next month.

Phil Radcliffe, the manager of Harriet’s Care Home in Distington, said the pay-off for Mrs Stannard had angered a lot of people.

He added that care homes like his provided social care for the county but, because the council decided the rate, they did not make much from it.

Ken Congdon, chairman of the Friends of Richmond Park Care Home, agreed that care for the elderly was an important issue.

He first campaigned against the proposed closure of the home in October 2011 and eventually his group was given a reprieve from closure.

He said: “Councillor James Airey was on record that he wanted to meet with us. We are a bit despondent that we’ve not been able to sit around a table yet but we are a bit more hopeful for discussions with councillors in the future rather than with the officers.

“Local councillors haven’t responded to letters or telephone calls. It’s a long time but then they are knocking on our doors asking for our votes.”

He added that four county councillors for the Workington area had been very supportive to their cause throughout.

Mr Congdon, from Main Street in Workington, added that Allerdale was one of the most deprived areas of the country and there was a need for more facilities for young people.

There's nothing like the nuclear agenda to turn up the heat in west Cumbria.

Copeland, and the rest of the county, was thrust into the national spotlight earlier this year when councillors decided against pursuing plans to search for a site for a nuclear repository.

Despite much debate at the time, the issue appears to have stalled in recent weeks - and one voter is angry that the candidates aren’t doing more to set out their stalls in the nuclear debate.

Roger Parker, a 57-year-old from Ennerdale, was heavily involved in a campaign against the proposal. He believes candidates’ views on the issue should be known.

“I am concerned that politicians are sitting on the fence and not responding to let us know how they stand on the nuclear waste issue,” he said. “There is a lot of interest from Cumbria, it’s something that’s quite an important issue to a lot of people.”

Charles Maudling, the 63-year-old chairman of Whitehaven Chamber of Trade, wants to see proper repairs on the roads and fewer decisions about the area taken miles away in Carlisle. He said highways was an area of concern which had been affected by the cutbacks of recent years. “Before then, when they had the money, they wasted so much,” he added.

Mr Maudling said that repairing areas of slab paving, in Whitehaven’s historic town centre, with tarmac was an example that gave a bad impression to visitors.

Mr Maudling said there needed to be more consultation with local people and decisions which affected Copeland should not be taken remotely in Carlisle by people who were not aware of the issues.

Gerard Richardson, 51, of Hensingham Road, said people needed to feel more engaged with local government because it was important to vote.

He added he hoped to see a move away from a coalition, either to Labour or Conservative, because it would mean it would have more direction and leadership and he said recent events, such as the controversy over the Cumbrian police commissioner’s expenses, could also have an impact on the result.

In Carlisle, Mike Vose, 43-year-old landlord of the Kings Head in Fisher Street, said a lot of votes cast could be a protest against the Government and national issues.

He said: “They are voting for them because they disagree with what the Government is doing.”

Mr Vose said he took very little interest in local politics because it had become “too political”.

He said: “They’ve lost touch with what they are meant to be doing. I am in favour of independent candidates because the parties interfere too much.”

Mr Vose said a priority for most of his customers was the state of the county’s road network. He asked: “Who is going to fix the roads? Most people mention that to me. It’s not the state of the roads, it’s the state of the repairs of the roads.”

Chris Kendall, a 51-year-old butcher from Brampton, said he was also concerned over the state of the county’s roads.

He said: “There are still a lot of potholes but they say they have not got the money.”

He added that council funding could be better prioritised.

He said: “Everything is concentrated on the wrong things. They talk about tourism but what good is tourism without the roads? The first priority should making sure everybody has got a home – not taking people’s homes off them for whatever reason.”

All of the county council's 84 seats are up for grabs.

The News & Star is covering the elections count live from 10am tomorrow. You can see how the day unfolds here

Have your say

The main concern MUST be people not engaging with the political process. People MUST vote- don't they realise how important it is? It pains me to hear so many people saying "Can't be bothered!" or "What's the point?" The point is, voting is a priviledge that our forbears struggled-and often died-for!
Use it or lose it!!!

It also seems to me that almost everyone questioned above what to know what "Somebody" is going to do for them. GET INVOLVED!! DO something for yourself! Don't just sit there expecting someone else to do things for you!!

Remember: "Evil will prevail when good men do nothing."

Posted by Use it or lose it on 3 May 2013 at 19:18

I would like to see no tax paid on the first £26,000 of earnings, 20% on earnings between £26,001 and £50,000 and 40% income tax on earnings between £50,001 and £150,000. Earnings above £150,001 per annum should be taxed at 50%.
Also abolish the confusing tax credit system which gobbles up more cash in administration than it hands back to the public.

Posted by Craig on 3 May 2013 at 06:44

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