Town council a forward move of which to be proud

Date: Friday 24th March 2017

Sir, Patricia Bell is making a plea for all councils to unify. Patricia, as we know, is deputy leader of Cumbria County Council.

She makes this plea on the basis that cuts are inevitable, and have been consistently made since 2012, with £148 million paid in grants alone that was siphoned from the main pot of cash available.

Looking at local government across the area, she evaluates the spending power in the region of around £70 million for all localised civil services. She goes on to say that “bigger isn’t better”.

There is only one issue that I might agree with. While it may be easier to amalgamate, and gain a larger pot for a central system, I cannot agree to an amalgam of councils on this precarious basis. A large body of centralised service providers is illusionary. She’s right, bigger is not better.

I disagree with her theory that to bring all services under one roof will benefit those of us who live further afield. The grounds for disillusionment in the consolidation of services is a massive point one cannot ignore when the county council strove to cut bus subsidies throughout the Eden Valley.

This point alone should concern people about what other services the leaders of Cumbria County Council wish to control. The revenue local councils have acquired so far is being put to good use. For instance, the quality and aesthetics, fundamental decisions, etc, on improvements have made the town of Penrith a much more pleasant environment to live in, and visit.

Since Penrith Town Council’s inception it has begun to filter more responsibilities from central service providers, bringing business, housing development and a renewed community feel into being. It’s a forward movement we can be proud of.

Although some of the decisions made have come from a push from central government, they have been planned and developed by our local councils.

If there is only so much in the central government pot for the whole of Cumbria, the amount of revenue available to councils will not change, whether there is an amalgam or not.

The way we allow others to apportion the monies available differs when each council has an opportunity to have its say on what it needs to spend it on. We should not have to go cap-in-hand to others to accommodate a community’s needs, with smaller committees taking a larger delivery service area.

I am not suggesting Patricia Bell is personally trying to canvass for the benefit of her own seat, but I am suggesting people like myself might want to examine her viewpoint thoroughly from an outside, looking in dynamic before raising a hand for a “unitary” option. Yours etc,