Like many of your readers, I have taken more than a passing interest in the ’temporary’ traffic lights on the A596 at Heathfield, Aspatria, especially as I pass through these lights at least twice daily.

As the months passed, I wondered at the cost of supply and maintenance of these lights and on March 9 I asked Cumbria County Council, via a Freedom of Information request, for a breakdown of the costs to date.

Having been promised a response within the statutory 20 working days, I was not overly concerned when the Covid-19 lockdown 10 working days later delayed the response. However, the delay stretched into weeks and months and, despite encouraging words, on July 14 I requested a formal internal review into the delay. As a result, on July 20 I was promised a response by August 7 or a further explanation as to the delay.

Guess what? August 7 passed with no further communication from the county council.

It is clear that the council may be very good at naming their gritters but are less effective at either fixing a bridge parapet in under 20 months or having an effective administration function.

If this is an example of the low standards they set themselves, should we be worried that the Government is keen to push through a single tier, devolved authority where Cumbria County Council will be at the heart of supplying day-to-day services? I think we should.



Best value for money

Whilst I don’t believe in tit-for-tat politics, I feel the need to respond to Coun Alan Smith’s letter in last week’s Times & Star.

Firstly, regarding our rough-around-the-edges approach, our newly-appointed councillors are very passionate and we should not dampen their enthusiasm or try to publicly correct behaviour. This will simply create a culture of fear and one that will not be productive for anyone. Also the “hard yards” (as he puts it) are being done by the Allerdale Independent Group, with 36.4 per cent of all committee positions being filled by the group. I feel his attention to one meeting when apologies had been submitted is a somewhat weak attempt to score points.

With reference to the waste contract he refers to as costing 30 per cent more, Coun Smith and his administration negotiated our last waste contract and we all know what happened there! We should always remember when looking at key services it is wise to remember the old saying “not all that glitters is gold” and the implications of his administration’s actions resulted in corrective measures having to be taken.

The new waste contract puts the future in our hands, and as with all businesses we need the correct business management to ensure it pays dividends to the people of Allerdale for many years to come, as well as offer job security for those working in Allerdale Waste Services.

Finally, on the “free” stadium, we above all would like to see a sports village being developed in Allerdale, one that both professional clubs can benefit from along with improved facilities at grassroots level across the borough. He continues to imply the stadium was fully funded, costing Allerdale nothing, but there was insufficient evidence of this and certainly not enough to continue to commit funds at the rate that was being asked. I wonder, as a council, where we would be now financially with this commitment around our neck? No contracts signed on leases and now many businesses developing new strategies of working from home. The possibility of large offices being needed in the future have been dramatically reduced, plus of course an 8,000-seater stadium that might not be safe for the general public to use!

Of course no-one could have foreseen Covid, but let’s take it as a lucky escape and ensure future developments are signed and sealed prior to committing our council’s much-needed funds.

My comments were not meant as any kind of political jibe: I was simply clarifying – as any business person would – that we should always ensure we obtain the best possible value for money.


Independent Group, Allerdale Borough Council

I BELIEVE Coun Smith has some audacity to say that the Allerdale Independents are ‘aggressive and abusive’.

Last weekend, a serious allegation was posted on social media about me from a member of the Labour Party and Maryport town councillor.

Of course, these allegations were unfounded and I agree with Janet King in her separate letter that Labour were bitterly disappointed to lose in the elections.

I can take most abuse with a pinch of salt but to bring members of someone’s family into it is a step too far and shows the desperate lengths members of Workington Labour will go to. The matter was also reported to the police.

Coun Smith is correct in his comments that I am new to the council but fails to realise that the electorate voted as they did because they were sick of the ‘old’. It would be wise for him to concentrate on what members of his own party are doing instead of pointing the finger of blame and trying to point score. Like Janet said, if we all quit with the pathetic abuse, name-calling and unfounded attacks then perhaps we can get on with the job of delivering for the benefit of the residents of Allerdale.


Independent, Maryport South, Allerdale Council

Labour and Mr King

The Labour Party is inclusive and open to all, including ex-prisoners (Janet Kings letter, August 6). However, it would expect them to show remorse, change their ways, and make restitution to their victims if appropriate.

Mr King was never elected as a Labour councillor. No-one does proper background checks before people become councillors. Parties try to do that, but if someone deceives them on the candidate application, or makes up a story to cover the time they were actually in prison, there is little they can do. No-one checks “Independents” at all.

Councillors get access to confidential information and might be asked by electors to help them with personal or financial problems with all sorts of bodies, often inviting them into their homes. Anyone else in a company or a voluntary organisation doing that would be expected to have a criminal record check and a safeguarding assessment. But not councillors.

Is it time to change the law so that background checks are made on anyone standing for council?



A596 issues nothing new

I READ with interest (but little surprise) that Workington MP Mark Jenkinson has pledged to tackle HGV traffic issues on one of West Cumbria’s busiest roads.

“Mr Jenkinson has received complaints from constituents about some lorries travelling at speed and in convoys, sometimes at unsociable hours along the A596,” I read. “Residents living in nearby towns and villages on route from Carlisle through to Aspatria, Crosby, Maryport and Flimby have also complained of road safety, noise and air quality issues.”

This is not a new issue – it has been a constant problem since 2010 when Iggesund began to import 600,000 tonnes of timber, the vast majority by road, to be burned to produce electricity in its new plant at Workington. I campaigned about this during the eight years I served as a councillor for Aspatria.

I and local residents received expressions of concern but no meaningful intervention from then-MP Sue Hayman. It looks like history may be about to repeat itself with our new MP Mark Jenkinson.

I say this because I wrote to him on this very matter on February 23, asking that he put specific questions to the Environment Secretary and feed his response back to me. Almost six months have passed and I have heard nothing since other than his acknowledgement of receiving my email.

My questions centred on two issues. The first concerned the Government’s intention to ban the sale of wet wood and coal for domestic use. I pointed out that while this was widely welcomed as a response to climate change, it was contradicted by the Government’s continuing encouragement that wet wood and timber products can be burned commercially to produce electricity for the national grid. I asked “how is the atmosphere expected to distinguish between the bad emissions that a domestic wet-wood fire produces, from 300,000 tons per annum produced on an industrial scale from the same material in Workington and which the Government seems to consider not only acceptable but to be encouraged?” No answer.

My second question was “how does the Secretary of State square this practice with the fact that it depends on 40,000 HGV journeys being made back and forth to forests or ports every year, and in so doing leaving a trail of noxious diesel emissions in its wake?” Again no answer.

It seems clear to me that the Government is deaf to this issue regardless of whether it is fought on the grounds of climate change, public health or public safety. Whenever what should happen for the public good is contrary to the desires of vested interests, the latter always wins. Resolution depends on the Government recognising that it has mutually contradictory policies and doing something to square them.

Until that happens perhaps the best we can hope for is that money is found to improve the junction at Ramsey Brow. Only in this way can the economic gain for Workington be balanced by Workington also accepting the environmental strain, which for the last 10 years has instead been endured by the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ residents of the many towns and villages along the A596.



Bin the white elephants

SO the only real heroes in this pandemic – the health and social care workers who fought on the front line, many paying the ultimate price with their lives – have to make do with a pocketful of thank-yous from this unprincipled government.

I never bought into the clapping for carers when the Tories were the cheerleaders – the sight of Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock clapping like a couple of demented seals was stomach-churning.

As for the public clappers, put your sincerity where it does most good by writing to your MP demanding an appropriate rise that their sacrifice deserves.

I don’t want to hear any whining from Chancellor Rishi Sunak about stretched finances until he bins that white elephant HS2 and the controversial nuclear repository which is once again rearing its ugly head. ence on this is deafening.

The cost of these insane projects will be in excess of a trillion pounds. Even without Covid these would be disastrous.