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Thursday, 23 October 2014

Petitions call for elected mayor and town council

SIR – I congratulate Copeland MP Jamie Reed for realising the benefits of what a democratically elected town council will have for the people of Whitehaven and, for the town itself.

And thank you to Councillor Paul Whalley for his letter (The Whitehaven News, November 14). His reply to our calls for Copeland to have its own elected mayor referred to my saying that this form of local governance will be more democratic.

He asked: “Does this mean that the majority of areas in England that do not have a directly-elected mayor are undemocratic?” No, Coun Whalley, I did not mean that. His interpretation is somewhat simplistic.

What I wrote is that the council leader/executive model in other areas of England works mainly because the council leaders and executive members incorporate democratic approaches built within the form of local governance they practice. Some of the attributes they have are:

listening to what people are telling them and acting accordingly,

practising in an open and transparent way,

accepting financial responsibility

and being held accountable for their decision-making processes.

I have not exhausted the list.

If he really wishes to gain an understanding of how the greater majority of the people of our area view the current CBC – and I am sure he does – he should turn the preceding four examples into negatives, and will have an insight.

The financing of the elected mayor in totality will be more than met by looking at the present hierachy of CBC and exactly how many tiers of management are really needed. It is already recognised, and appreciated, how hard-working and innovative council employees are “on the front line”, so it will be the upper echelons that will be looked at. It is envisaged there will be a surplus of money when a democratically-elected mayor comes into being.

Since Coun Whalley raised the money topic, when you look at council tax arrears in Copeland for the year 2011 to 2012, the total outstanding, unrecoverable amount is £588,770, more than double the figure for Allerdale.

Coun Woodburn’s attempt at scare-mongering on her blog on the council’s website is just random figures plucked out of the air. She quotes £120,000 to have a referendum for an elected mayor. The actual figure will be a mere fraction of her guesstimate because it will be run in conjunction with next year’s European Parliament elections.

Currently, the allowances plus expenses for our 51 borough councillors is in the region of £300,000. The number of councillors we have will be scrutinised with the view of decreasing the numbers.

Councillors’ remuneration packages will also be closely looked at with the “expenses” system reviewed in order that council taxpayers receive value for their money. Currently, and blatantly, this is not the case.

I also thank Coun Whalley for his offer of “educating me on some facts”. Most appreciated, but our pool of resources is more than adequate.

I am pleased to observe he is now out of the local political wilderness having previously resigned.

There have been scurrilous remarks that some of my associates are anti-nuclear. This is not the case. Anyone who writes or circulates such, I request to please stop.

The good news: the elected mayor and town council referendum petition forms are now out on the streets for signing! There are sheets at selected shops in Whitehaven Market Place available for people to sign. As more of the town centre is covered by me and my associates, more business owners, who give permission, will hold petitions in their shops for you to sign. The rest of Whitehaven will be covered followed by the rolling out of the petition sheets to the remainder of Copeland, so that you can have the opportunity of making your voice heard to embrace the democratic process, as opposed to the closed regime that exists at the moment.

Only people who live within the Whitehaven area will be able to sign the petition for the town council, but everyone who lives in Copeland being able to sign the Elected Mayor sheets.

Please be careful when signing the sheets: all in block capitals please (except for your signature) because the petition sheets will be scrutinised by CBC before they go to local government secretary Eric Pickles, who will then order CBC to hold the referendum for the people of Copeland to have the democratic choice of how their future leaders will be elected.

Some people have asked to have sheets given to them in order that they may gather signatures themselves. If anyone has questions please contact Carla Arrighi’s shop in Whitehaven Market Place. And don’t forget, you will have your vote every four years, for YOUR choice of leader.

A final point: my associates and I are non-party political. We do not favour Conservative, Labour or any political party (some sitting councillors have approached either me or my associates to voice their interest).

We support common sense. We support democracy and the elected mayor option that will work in partnership with the people of Copeland. This will bring our once thriving area back to where it needs and wants to be: successful and prosperous.

Bern BIRBECK

Whitehaven

SIR – It’s very heartening to see CBC at last engaging with the electorate through The Whitehaven News, however Coun Whalley’s comments last week again are merely a piece of glossy spin.

No one is saying that an elected mayor somehow makes other areas in England undemocratic, just that in this instance it simply would make Copeland more democratic. Can Coun Whalley tell readers how many councils reverted from an elected mayoral system back to their previous arrangements?

As to the cost of an elected mayor, well again the cost would not be as dramatic as he tries to make out. An elected mayor would I hope employ at least a couple of good secretaries but he or she would get rid of the highly-paid chief executive and his secretariat and the council leader’s associated costs, and I would think he could do away with enough ‘tidy little numbers’ so as to make his post in effect much cheaper. The cost of referendum on the two issues is not massive if run as part of the next elections.

With regard to a town council, with such a relatively small budget to spend [Coun Whalley puts the figure at £300-£500K] why would a town council need premises? A very small office would suffice and meetings do not need to be held in palatial surroundings.

As an obvious ‘Old Labourite’ he can’t or won’t accept that someone can run some things on the principle of small government. Everything the current administration touches has to be hidebound in cost, expenses, fancy offices and staff, consultants etc etc. He has some cheek given the cock up his lot made over the Copeland Centre to even mention the word rent.

Does Coun Whalley honestly think Whitehaven town centre is not dying on its feet or that the benefits of the nuclear industry are not percolating down to the man in the street? That his council has not got an incredibly lamentable record on all fronts as do a number of individual councillors? Does he not see there is nothing to keep our young educated people from staying in the town, or that the loss of amenities just goes on and on, or that there are no original policies coming through? The ruling administration is autocratic?

I, for one, side with the idea of this being a time for change. Our neighbours in Workington have re-invented their town centre, and it’s a credit to them. Tell me what things you personally have done that you can stand proud and say: “I did that”?

With regard to the comments of Ms Stacey Smith, her comments are even more outlandish. If a system of elected mayor was adopted then one would vote on the policies that person’s standing presented. How she can equate a desire for a change in the electoral system as an anti-nuclear vote is simply preposterous – no individual would ever be elected on that platform in any case.

At least this subject has got our councillors to wake up a little and even our MP is getting involved albeit against the avowed policy of his Labour party run local authority.

T. TODD

Woodhouse Road, Whitehaven

SIR – Regarding Stacey Smith’s letter, I assume that she is a parish councillor and the email she has received was forwarded to her by her parish clerk, as I have no email or other contact information for a Stacey Smith and I have only contacted Copeland’s parish clerks, borough councillors and our MP about a new elected mayor petition.

I do know of some Smiths from my days at Faslane on nuclear subs and I think there are a few at Sellafield, even some maybe were at the now-defunct SDS for whom I did design contract work for when called upon. What would my ex-mess mates now at Pelindaba think if I were now anti-nuclear?

Perhaps if she had the guts to provide her address or contact me directly I would be able to assure her that I am certainly not anti-nuclear in any way. I am anti the stupidity of those seeking to place a GDF where it is geologically unsound and against public opinion and past Nirex and MRWS judgements. In a letter on the opposing page to her letter last week, I was calling for referenda in both Allerdale and Copeland on the matter in the name of democracy to finally settle the matter.

A public apology would be nice but I never expect that from the likes of her.

Arthur MILLIE

Longcroft

Egremont

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