I’d like to respond to the article “Appeal to save town’s theatres” (Times & Star, November 26) as I chaired the full council meeting where councillor Michael Heaslip’s motion was discussed.

As a long-time member of Workington and Allerdale councils, Coun Heaslip will know only too well that councils have to be prudent with their funds and must account for spending, keeping within budget.

His proposal to ‘save the town’s theatres’ was admirable, and all the members of the council agreed that their survival is vital to promote the amazing wealth of talent that we have in our area.

However, the ‘significant underspends’ that he quotes are within the current year and, until the end of the financial year at the end of March, as Coun Heaslip well knows, we will not be in a position to utilise any of this money until we know exactly how much it is.

A decision cannot be made to spend nearly £70,000 of public money from these underspends without proper consideration of the council’s finances, and I sincerely hope Coun Heaslip himself would not have sanctioned significant spending outside the budgeted amounts until all the checks had been made.

It was premature and unkind to raise the hopes of our fantastic theatres without first submitting the proposal to the culture committee for consideration. It would be extremely irresponsible of the council to make a snap decision with no prior notice to donate a huge amount of money without knowing whether we could actually afford it, and the public could rightly hold us to account if we did so!

A decision will be made as soon as the financial position becomes clearer.


Mayor and Chair of Workington Town Council

Vision to help others

Plans were announced this week to bring Workington’s five GP practices together.

Professor John Howarth, who leads the Primary Care Alliance, describes it as “a fantastic opportunity, here in Workington, to try and do things differently and make improvements for patients and staff”.

I fully support this plan, which was why the Labour council in Allerdale planned to build a community stadium with offices and resources for the GPs.

It made sense. It was cost-effective and innovative. But it was dismissed as a “vanity project” by local Conservatives.

And when it comes to supporting innovation – doing something different for the common good, for our wellbeing – the local Independent group are equally dismissive. For, also this week, the Independent Workington town councillors cynically rejected a proposal to support three much valued theatres: the Theatre Royal, Moorclose Theatre and the Carnegie.

The bigger picture here is that people’s wellbeing is about more than a building. A surgery, or a stadium won’t cure anyone. But people working together, creatively with shared minds and vision – that’s priceless.


Leader, Allerdale Council Labour group

Don’t stop now!

Covid-19 restrictions shouldn’t be further relaxed, not yet anyway. MPs this week voted to confirm the Government’s revised tier system or not. Some 54 Conservative MPs rebelled against the Government, and 10 abstained, because they felt the restrictions were either too strict generally or too strict for their areas.

My message to them, to the government, and to all of us is when it comes to limiting our activities to prevent coronavirus spread is: Don’t stop now!

At the end of this second period of lockdown, numbers of cases and hospital are beginning to fall, sadly deaths are only just peaking or possibly falling a little. Last time it took three months of lockdown before the numbers came down to significantly low levels. I am concerned that the tier system may not be strict enough, but also I am sure that relaxing it, before there are further clear ‘post lockdown’ reductions in numbers, is not the right way to go. If our area, or anyone else’s, seems to be in too strict a tier, this is actually a good thing in the long term: the higher the tier, the less the chance of the disease spreading and the quicker restrictions will be lifted when reviewed.

Like Lisa Nandy, the Labour front bench spokesperson interviewed at the weekend, I am aware of the enormous economic pain that restrictions will cause, even the lesser tier two regulations we shall face in West Cumbria; this affects the hospitality industry, the retail sector and many other industries and services.

All businesses that have to close down, or run a greatly restricted operation, and all their employees who lose money, whether in lockdown, or whichever tier, should be adequately compensated. Yes, this will cost a lot of money, and yes, it will increase the national debt. But the pandemic is an international crisis on a par with the world wars of the 20th century.

We need the same community spirit, locally and nationally that got us through the wars – to use a much-quoted slogan from those days “keep calm and carry on”. Or as I said before – don’t stop now!


Dearham, near Maryport

Let's get priorities right

Covid-19 is causing many Cumbrians very serious problems this winter. Business owners are struggling with more stress than they have ever known. All sorts of people are in serious financial difficulty. Lots of people are profoundly lonely.

Some can’t get the medical treatments they need. Others are trapped in abusive and dangerous families and relationships. Many working in health, care and education are facing unprecedented levels of stress and exhaustion.

As a county councillor, I deeply feel that I should be doing everything I can to support people in Cumbria who are struggling with these issues. But that’s not what I’m doing.

I’m spending meeting after meeting, and hour after hour working with our officers on the practicalities of turning Cumbria into one or two unitary authorities at unprecedented speed.

I have called for political leaders in Cumbria to petition the government to pause this process until a vaccine for Covid-19 is substantially rolled out, because I want to be free to work with officers on solving the urgent problems we’re facing now and running high quality services despite the challenges we are facing.

Inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore, my dad is currently walking 86 miles before his 86th birthday to raise funds for Eden Valley hospice which has lost funding due to Covid-19. So far, he has pledges of over £8,000.

If we weren’t all tied up with local government reorganisation this winter, one of the many things we could be exploring is how to inspire as many of us as possible to take on personal health challenges and raise desperately needed cash for charity this Christmas.

REBECCA HANSON Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Cockermouth North