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Department for Transport responds to rail protest

The Department for Transport was responding to criticism from the RMT. Credit: ITV Border

The Department for Transport has released a statement in response to protests from the RMT union, about proposals to cut ticket staff jobs.

The rail and transport union is protesting outside Cumbria County Council's meeting in Kendal today, because the Government has decided that local authorities will have more say over local rail services:

The next Northern and Transpennine franchises will bring massive improvements for customers, including removing the outdated and unpopular Pacers, bringing in a brand new fleet of modern trains, and boosting capacity at peak times by a third. It’s part of our ambitious one nation plan to transform transport infrastructure and build a Northern Powerhouse to create a balanced, healthier economy.

We recognise the value of customer-facing staff on the railways, which is why we are not specifying any staff cuts in the new franchises. Giving drivers responsibility for opening and closing doors frees up on-board staff to provide the high level of customer service that passengers deserve.”

– DfT spokesperson


Protests expected over fire and rail cuts

The council has proposed closing fire stations. Credit: ITV Border

Opponents of plans to cut fire stations and axe rail jobs in Cumbria are expected to stage protests in Kendal today.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union and the RMT rail union are set to gather outside Cumbria County Council's full council meeting, to object to proposals to close five fire stations and cut train guard posts.

Council to consider closing fire stations

Cumbria County Council. Credit: ITV Border

Plans to cut millions of pounds from public services in Cumbria will be discussed by councillors today.

Cumbria County Council says it has to save an additional 17.5million pounds next year and is putting forward savings proposals for public consultation.

The plans include closing four fire stations, which the council say could shut as the number of fires in the county is decreasing.

Well we've certainly selected fire stations for a number of reasons, one is that the level of risk has reduced, but also that there is a proximity of other fire resources and fire appliances from local stations in close proximity."

– Jim Onions, Chief Fire Officer, Cumbria Fire and Rescue

Councillors to get 1% allowances increase

Cumbria County Council Credit: ITV Border

Councillors at Cumbria County Council are to get a one percent increase in their allowances.

It was agreed at a council meeting today, and has now come into force.

The Independent Remuneration Panel recommended a significantly higher increase - of 2.2 percent.

The council expects to have to save £55 million by 2019.

Although I welcome the panel’s recommendations and recognise the hard work that they have done, we are in unprecedented financial times.

The challenges we are facing ahead will be very difficult and we will have no choice but to make difficult decisions. With this in mind we felt it was not appropriate that we agreed to take a 2.2% pay rise, especially when in real terms the rate of pay for our staff has gone down despite a national pay increase received by our staff last year.

With this in mind we felt that the only reasonable increase that we could and would consider, would be 1%. I feel that this acknowledges the hard work and commitment of our members, but also recognises the current financial climate within which we find ourselves operating.”

– Stewart Young, Leader of Cumbria County Council

Our report was underpinned by research and consultation with the public, via the local media, questionnaires and using channels such as Facebook and Twitter.

We were particularly impressed with the feedback from the Cumbria Youth Council. We believe that a modest increase in allowances is appropriate even in the challenging financial climate locally and nationally.

Whilst the council didn’t accept our recommendation of 2.2% the Panel feels that the 1% does go some way to recognise the hard work and commitment of the council’s members."

– John Lyons, Chairman of the Independent Remuneration Panel


Cumbrian Care home labelled 'inadequate'

Care Home Credit: PA

Government inspectors have branded a Penrith care home inadequate in three out of five areas.

The review of Greengarth care home highlights a staff shortage on nightshifts, shortcomings in risk assessments as well as poor management of medicine administration.

Claims of abuse were also raised in the inspectors review.

The service did not always act appropriately when allegations of abuse arose.

The safeguarding systems and processes in place at the home were not effective and people were not protected from the risks of harm or abuse.”

– Government inspectors

The Care Quality Commission has ordered Cumbrian Care, the council branch in charge of running Greengarth care home, to take significant action to improve the quality of care at the Bridge Lane home.

Greengarth can accommodate up to 39 older people, including those living with dementia.

The council have commented on the claims saying :

In response to initial feedback provided by the CQC in early June, and our own assessment of standards at the home, we have been working hard to address improvements.

We regret that despite the significant effort over recent months, we have not been able to improve standards at the scale and pace required.

Our top priority is the safety and welfare of people living at Greengarth.

In light of the report’s findings social workers are meeting with them, and their families, to decide on the next steps for their care.

We will be undertaking a review to consider the factors that led to this situation, and understand the learning that we can take from it to ensure it does not happen again.”

– Councillor Beth Furneaux

Tories hold seat in county council by-election

Credit: ITV Border

The Conservatives held the Cumbria County Council seat of Greystoke and Hesket in yesterday's by-election.

Tom Wentworth Waites has been elected county councillor to replace Bert Richardson who retired on health grounds.

The results of the by-election were: DERBYSHIRE, Judith Margaret: Liberal Democrat Party - 518.

WENTWORTH WAITES, Thomas William: Conservative Party - 635.

Turnout was 32 per cent.

The political make-up of Cumbria County Council's 84 elected members is now as follows:

Labour: 36 Conservative: 26 Liberal Democrat: 15 Independent/Non-aligned: 5 West Cumbrian Independents: 2

Cumbria County Council responds to 'frustrating' Budget

The county council has slammed the Budget. Credit: ITV Border

Today's budget has been described as "deeply frustrating" by Cumbria County Council.

The council's Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Patricia Bell, has criticised the lack of information about local government finance:

The lack of detail in today’s statement by the Chancellor is deeply frustrating. We know that the financial future for local government is bleak. The fact is that year on year since 2010 government has chosen to cut funding to local councils, forcing them to make difficult, and unpopular, decisions. Today he has added little further information, keeping us guessing about exactly where the axe will fall. We now await the Comprehensive Spending Review in the autumn.

However, what is clear is that there will be no change in the underlying direction. There will be no let-up in the assault on our finances; while services like education and health will be protected, local councils will continue to be hammered.

Our best estimate before today was that we would have to reduce our spending by at least £80m over the next three years. We have plans for where some of those reductions will be made, but we’re still £55m short. To put that in context, the gap is more than three times the budget for our Fire and Rescue Service and over ten times the budget of our entire library service.

So this will mean continuing to put all our services under the microscope to work out how we can protect our children, support older people and maintain our roads. Improving efficiency remains important; but the savings we can make here won’t come close to what we need. Services are going to change and services are going to stop – important services that the public value. The only question is which ones.

Be under no illusion, what the Chancellor’s Budget Statement means is that the reductions in services over the last four years will accelerate. This council, and what it does, will be radically different in three years’ time. Government has dealt us this hand, all we can do is play it as best we can and minimise the inevitable damage to our county.”

– Councillor Patricia Bell, Cumbria County Council
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