Confident chairman

Date: Monday 11th September 2017

IT is to be expected that the chairman of Eden Council’s newly-formed private company, Heart of Cumbria, is confident that it will be successful in generating revenue for the authority as a replacement for central government grants, which could disappear in the future.

John Owen, the Conservative councillor who represents Shap, was certainly bullish about the prospects of the company during a meeting of Eden Council on Thursday and, backed by a number of his political colleagues, took a swipe at critics who perhaps do not share his enthusiasm. “I don’t do failure,” was his bold retort as Liberal Democrat councillors in particular expressed doubt that Heart of Cumbria would be the success that Mr. Owen is convinced it will be.

Taxpayers will hope that the confidence of Mr. Owen and his fellow Heart of Cumbria directors is not misplaced, particularly in view of the fact that the company has already been given a £100,000 grant by the council and has access to a £1 million loan.

It will also need a further large injection of public funds if it goes ahead with plans to buy affordable houses that are part of a large-scale Penrith housing development and which housing associations do not seem to want or are not in a position to purchase. In view of the amount of taxpayers’ money that is already tied up in Heart of Cumbria, it is right that its activities should come under close scrutiny.

The council may well come to depend on the private company to provide it with a regular income stream to sustain the services it provides, so it is in the interests of all councillors to work towards its success. But that should not prevent questions being asked on behalf of the public, and the company directors should stop viewing them as personal insults.