Feedback from today's Copeland Council meeting
The main item at Copeland Council today was the decision to talk to the government about future nuclear waste disposal.
Councillors from both sides of the chamber accepted that the council should register an interest in this. That does not mean that Copeland is committed to taking a new waste repository. It certainly does not mean that the government can regard any such proposal as a done deal. It does mean that we have accepted that Britain's stock of nuclear waste exists, that it will continue to exist for many years even if there isn't a new generation of nuclear plants, that 70-80% of that waste is currently in Copeland, and something has to be done with it. It would be irresponsible for Copeland Council not to talk to the government about what is the safest way to deal with the waste.
Interestingly, some Labour councillors appear to be coming closer to the view first expressed by the council's Conservative leader that the public should have a decisive voice in whether we agree to a new waste site. The suggestion is that we would have to have a local referendum before going ahead: and that we would only support a new waste repository if the evidence that it is safe and the rest of the terms on offer are sufficiently good that we can put the proposal to the residents of Copeland in a referendum and expect to win.
Also on the agenda was a report on the lamentable decision to close 8 Post offices in Copeland. As previously reported on this blog, Conservative and Labour councillors had worked together to put up a very strong case for reconsideration of these closure proposals, and we were furious that it was ignored. The council will be writing to our MP and the Secretary of State to ask for clarification of what "West Cumbria Proofing" means as it seems to have been ignored.
Several local members raised the issue of Telephone Box closures. There is currently a consultation about proposals to shut 25 public payphones in Copeland. Some of these are in areas where mobile reception is not good and local ward members were concerned at the loss of an emergency service. Anyone with concerns about this was encouraged to respond to the consultation.
The agenda had originally included a Conservative motion calling for a discussion about the recent Audit Commission report on Copeland's Housing policy.
The report concerned is the most damning audit report I have seen in 21 year's total service as a councillor on three different authorities. It does deserve extensive discussion and consideration.
However, we agreed to withdraw the motion for now on the basis that we were offered alternative arrangements for detailed public discussion of the report and the measures being taken to address the problems it identified. At first sight these alternatives appear to provide a more effective vehicle to address the serious concerns which the Audit report raises. Obviously we will be looking carefully to make sure there is progress. This is the second bad report on Copeland's housing service: it would be an utter disgrace if the same problems were found again in a year or two's time.