This week marks the first anniversary of Allerdale Executive’s decision to crush the plan for a first class new Sports Stadium Complex in Workington and the opportunity to host the Rugby League World Cup, which would have brought £5m into Allerdale’s economy.

At the time Coun Mark Jenkinson (now MP) said the key reason for this decision was the lack of a Sellafield rental agreement for the associated office development, that would defray the stadium costs to the council. So after a year, what’s the current situation?

The good. Negotiations have recently restarted between the council and Workington Town and Workington Reds. Since the rejection of the previous plan, there have been no fewer than nine visits by council officers to Sellafield Ltd. with regard to the office development that was at the centre of the previous scheme; this suggests a commitment to resolving a key financial issue for a new, albeit less ambitious, stadium, at least on the part of officials.

The bad. There has been a Conservative takeover of the Executive. Their opposition history is one of not supporting large-scale public investment in Workington. Of more concern is the fact that there are now no councillors from Workington (or Maryport) on the Executive. That does not augur well for a commitment to council spending in this part of Allerdale.

Nor does the fact that, prior to the earlier rejection, there was only one meeting with Sellafield, by the then leader, Marion Fitzgerald. It was only days before the Executive was due to meet and was unminuted. It was hardly a serious attempt to sort out the financial problem that was seen to be at the heart of the plan they were considering.

The unknown. Looking to the future, will Coun Fitzgerald redeem herself As the Executive member for policy, will she (and her Executive allies) scupper a new stadium once again or will they continue to support the Sports Village?. Yes, there will be short- term financial uncertainty, pushing back the timeline for stadium development. Yet, as an economist I would ask them:

n to use this time to seriously investigate the feasibility of different models of financing and different sources of funds, especially when we have near zero interest rates.

n to recognise that it’s not just about the Reds/Town and the sporting participation of future generations, but also about the need for long-term public investment in the forthcoming post-virus recession, to avoid a bleak future for the local economy.


By email

Happy with the books

Councillor Ian Greaney (Times & Star letters, July 3) really should know, as chair of the council’s Scrutiny Committee, that there is an independent external audit of every council’s books and accounts every year. This is not something that his “Independent” group can ask for, still less do a dodgy deal with another group about, as he suggests his group did with the Conservatives. It’s a legal requirement.

Accountancy firm Grant Thornton are Allerdale Council’s auditors. No complaint was made to them about the council’s accounts or finances during the period of Labour administration by Coun Greaney or anyone else. The Audit Report by Grant Thornton for 2018-19 was made to the Audit Committee on July 30 2019; the Audit Committee includes members of the “independent” group and is chaired by Coun Janet King, a member of that group, who approved the report; no concerns were raised by members.

The Audit Committee reports to the full council: again no concerns were raised by members.

For the record, the Audit Report says that Grant Thornton gave an unqualified opinion on the financial statements (that means it found nothing of concern). It also says that on value for money “we were satisfied that the council put in place proper arrangements to ensure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources”.

The Audit Report included looking at the waste and recycling procurement and the community stadium project, and Grant Thornton’s opinion on those two projects was also “unqualified”.

So what is Coun Greany up to? Either he knows these facts and is attempting a shameless dishonest and scurrilous exercise in planting false information in your readers’ minds. Or he doesn’t know the facts and is displaying breathtaking ignorance or inattention for someone who is supposed to be chair of the Scrutiny Committee, the council’s watchdog.


Leader of the Labour Group, Allerdale Borough Council

Betraying the voters

I WRITE in full support of Coun Ian Greaney’s letter “Deal or no deal”,

On May 2 2019, the Independents received an overwhelming mandate from the voting public in Allerdale when they received 44% of the votes of elected councillors with both Conservatives and Labour on 26% .

Our intention was to form a rainbow council in Allerdale, with Independents leading the council with a executive of three Independents, two Conservatives and two Labour in a bid to restore democracy back into the council chambers at Allerdale Borough Council.

However Labour leader Alan Smith point-blank refused to work with the Independents without even consulting the other members of his group, leaving them isolated from all key decision making on the council.

An agreement was made with the then council leader Mark Jenkinson to form an executive of four Independents and three Conservatives, with the Independents leading the council for a four-year fixed term. This agreement was working well despite the Independents’ concerns with regards to meetings being held with the leader Coun Marion Fitzgerald and then-councillor Jenkinson behind closed doors without any input or presence from the largest group on the council.

In February 2020 Coun Fitzgerald resigned as leader of the council after a confidence vote from the Independent group. Coun Mike Johnston took over as council leader in a political coup and despite assurances that the agreement between the Independents and the Conservatives would be honoured the Labour group was invited into talks with the Conservatives and a political alliance was agreed in March 2020.

Some two weeks ago Alan Smith went public with the alliance however he described the alliance as a Confidence & Supply deal. I now call on him to be honest with the voting public and reveal the details of the agreed deal with the Conservative group.

I have been informed that the Independents will be removed from all key decision-making committees and replaced by Labour councillors as part of the new Conservative/Labour alliance. This is not what the 44% of the electorate voted for in May 2019 and I’m very confident that both political groups will feel the public backlash in the county council elections next year as a result of this act of betrayal.


Independent town, borough and county councillor,

Moorclose and Moss Bay

Cut the university holidays

Students considering university courses this September might want to explore all their options.

For example how about taking a degree in the Netherlands where some 60% of courses are taught in English and tuition fees far lower than in the UK?

While the chaos of Brexit makes this option slightly more complicated, it is still worth investigating.

Overall the university sector seems to give appallingly poor value for money. Why on earth there needs to be long holiday vacations – it is not as if students are still tender youngsters needing such breaks.

As a preparation for the real world of work the only holidays for the students and their tutors should be the normal statutory few weeks a year.

As a result a three-year course could be completed in just one or two years. Think of the saving on that tuition and accommodation debt pile!



Live! And kicking

On behalf of the Cockermouth Live! organising team we’d like to say a big thank you to all those artists and performers who sent in their contributions for “Cockermouth Virtually Live”.

We were overwhelmed with the response and the show,which premiered on You Tube last Saturday, contained almost four hours of performances which, together with the endorsements from traders, gave a real flavour of this much-loved festival.

We’d also like to thank the nearly 1,500 people who have watched the show so far and whose generosity helped us reach our £500 target.

If you haven’t got to see it yet, it’s up on You Tube till tomorrow (Saturday July 11).

We’re very much hoping that come next July we can do it really Live!


Chair, Cockermouth Live!