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Friday, 01 August 2014

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Rebel councillor slams colleagues as residents head to polls

A rebel Labour councillor has launched a scathing attack on his own colleagues – hours before a historic referendum.

Karl Connor photo
Karl Connor

Karl Connor claims Copeland council leader Elaine Woodburn, who is a fellow Labour Party member, and her executive, don’t have the “right answers” and have failed to listen to others.

And he has accused some of his fellow councillors of being out of touch and thinking they are “above criticism” and “intellectually superior” to the people they represent.

But his comments have provoked a sharp response from Mrs Woodburn, who accused Mr Connor of pursuing a “negative” and “personalised” campaign in the run-up to today’s vote.

Mr Connor wants an overhaul of the authority’s executive, saying it should be made up of the “best councillors, from any party or none, who could deliver improvements and take the council forward”.

Mr Connor, speaking in a personal capacity, said: “We don’t need a safe pair of hands. We need ideas, we need energy and we need not to repeat our mistakes year after year.”

The outspoken Egremont councillor’s attack comes as people in the borough prepare to have their say on the way the council is structured.

A referendum is being held today on whether or not to replace Copeland’s current leader and chief executive with an elected mayor.

Mr Connor revealed he would be voting in favour of an elected mayor and accused his party of failing to respond to public concerns about how the council is run.

He said: “To have people feel so angry at the decisions we’d taken and the way we’ve run their council should have made us think again.

“However, as we do with so many opportunities in Copeland, we’ve allowed the opportunity to be wasted.

“With every foul-mouthed rant in the street or local chip shop and every disparaging online post (from real or fake accounts) we’ve served only to prove correct the accusation that some of us as councillors are not connected to the views of the masses, that some of us think we are above criticism, and that a minority of us believe we are intellectually superior to the electorate.”

Responding to the comments, Mrs Woodburn said: “The thing with a directly elected mayor that Karl doesn’t seem to have grasped is that you’ll still have 51 councillors – probably a lot of the same councillors.

“The pro mayor group have chosen to run their campaign in a very negative and personal way and Karl seems to have decided to do the same.”

Mrs Woodburn said the current system was more democratic that the mayoral one, which she believes concentrates too much power into one pair of hands.

“If you get the wrong person, it could be a disaster,” she said. “But whatever happens today the problems will still be here, including the £1.4 million that we will have to save from our budget next year.”

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