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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


Community swimming pool saved from closure

Wigton pool was due to close in March.

Wigton's community swimming pool has been saved from closure.

The Wigton Baths Trust was granted ownership of the town's pool by Cumbria County Council on 23 March, and it'll officially run the pool from 31 March.

The council said financial cutbacks meant it couldn't afford to keep it open, and it was due to be closed.

But Alan Pitcher, Chair of the Trust, is confident they've got the financial power to keep it going:


Cumbria's main roads 'improving'

Main roads have improved, rural roads are worse. Credit: ITV Border

Cumbria's main roads are improving, and fewer need maintenance, according to the Department for Transport... but its rural roads are in greater need of repair than before.

A survey of road conditions, carried out as part of a national monitoring programme, found:

  • Principal A class roads in need of repair has fallen from 6% to 5% between 2011/12 and 2013/14
  • Non-principal roads (B and C class roads) in need of maintenance has also gone down, from 17% to 14%, over the same period
  • Sight rise for unclassified, minor rural roads needing maintenance, which rose from 15% to 17%

“Maintaining and improving our roads is one of the council’s key priorities and the DfT figures show there has been a small, but steady improvement in the condition of our busiest roads over recent years.

"This reflects the improvements we’ve made to the highways maintenance service in recent years, including investment in plant and machinery and co-ordinating our work more consistently.

"I appreciate that our roads are far from perfect, particularly at this time of year before the spring and summer maintenance programme has stepped up.

But our highways teams are working hard to make the most of increasingly limited resources and these figures show they are making a real difference.”

– Councillor Keith Little, Cumbria County Council Cabinet member for highways

The council estimates that around £250 million more is required to bring the county’s highways network up to a good or reasonable standard.

Work on Penrith's roads starts

Credit: PA

Cumbria County Council is starting work on a major £2.3m road improvements scheme in Penrith.

It hopes the project will improve access to the Gilwilly Industrial Estate and Eden Business Park, and that this will open up the town for future business growth and potential new jobs.

The first phase will involve putting in an extra lane on the A592 Ullswater Road roundabout for southbound traffic and a revised layout for traffic exiting southbound from Haweswater Road.

Soup-er solution for Penrith library users

Penrith library has teamed up with a local business owner to offer an innovative temporary solution to a problem with its lift.

Disabled library users or families with pushchairs faced access problems as the lift to the first-floor library is temporarily out of action. So the Soup Shop opposite the library entrance in the Devonshire Arcade has steamed in with a solution, offering a temporary service from its café.

A selection of books will be offered in the Soup Shop from today (Friday 27 February) and library staff will be on hand to register new customers or fetch items on request. Penrith library will be open for business as usual for people using the stairs.

“This is a great example of how we work with people in the local area to find solutions. We are very grateful to Soup Shop owner Paul Forsyth for his help in ensuring everyone can still have access to the books they love and need. I hope people take the opportunity to enjoy a snack while they peruse our products too.”

– Cllr Ian Stewart, Cumbria County Council's Cabinet Member for Libraries
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