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Lib Dems set out Carlisle council elections agenda

The Liberal Democrats have made the regeneration of Caldewgate and Botchergate a central plank of their campaign for the Carlisle City Council elections.

They are also promising a campaign to educate the public against the evils of dog fouling and fly tipping and want to cut the number of councillors to save money.

The party’s fortunes have waned in Carlisle in recent years – the death of Councillor Jim Tootle in November means there are now only four Lib Dem city councillors.

They are hoping to hold onto his old seat in Castle ward on May 3 and defend Morton, where group leader Nan Farmer is stepping down, and Dalston where Councillor Trevor Allison is seeking re-election.

Mr Allison refuted the suggestion that the Lib Dems were a declining force in Carlisle.

The party is contesting only eight of the 17 seats up for election on May 3.

He said: “We have lost some of our stalwarts and we are in the process of rebuilding. It’s not a question of decline, it’s a question of rebuilding. We have candidates of high calibre.”

The retired Stead McAlpin boss is scathing of comments made by Labour group leader Joe Hendry, suggesting that the council might build an Olympic-sized swimming pool at Morton.

Mr Allison said: “We can’t afford to subsidise an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Carlisle City Council is asset rich but revenue poor. We have to start living within our means.”

The Lib Dems believe a spending priority should be paying off a £15.1m loan.

The fixed-interest debt was taken on to fund regeneration of Raffles. Paying it off early would incur a £5m penalty but save more than twice that in interest payments over the next eight years. The Lib Dems also advocate reducing the number of councillors from 52 to around 38.

Mr Allison said: “When I put a questionnaire out, this got by far the most responses.

“We’ve had big cutbacks within the council but we haven’t cut the number of councillors.”

Lib Dem support has kept the Conservatives in control since the Tories lost their overall majority in 2003.

Mr Allison does not expect voters to punish his party for that or for its decision to enter a national coalition with the Conservatives following the 2010 General Election.

That view is echoed by Michael Gee, chairman of Carlisle Liberal Democrats, who is standing in Harraby.

He said: “The general feeling of the public about the coalition Government has changed in the last 12 months.

“We have seen the consequences of Labour’s profligate policies over 13 years, which have damaged the future of the present citizens of Carlisle and those of coming generations.

“The coalition Government has an enormous and unenviable task in restoring the fortunes of the country.”

Have your say

I have to agree, BM - it is a shame that local politics is overshadowed by national politics in these elections. It is inevitable though, I suppose, that people will use the elections to give the treacherous LibDems the whipping they so richly deserve - shame that they will do so in a lot of cases by voting for the irrelevant UKIP.

Posted by Evil McBad on 17 April 2012 at 16:01

Yup, time to give UKIP a platform methinks. Maybe when 'Labour' can admit culpability for the economic woes forced on us through their mis-management over 13 years, they will be worth looking at again.

Posted by Craig on 17 April 2012 at 09:30

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