Monday, January 18, 2021

Copeland Local Committee - and Managing Radioactive Waste

A number of important things discussed at the Copeland Local Committee of Cumbria County Council today and I will probably report on more of them later on, but I want to focus on what will probably be the most contentious item - the issue of managing nuclear waste.

Before you say anything else about the issue of nuclear waste, from the perspective of people in Cumbria, it is really important to understand an extremely basic fact.

No matter how much you wish it was otherwise, Britain already has thousands of tons of waste material, including more than a hundred tons of Plutonium Oxide as a legacy of our existing and historical nuclear programmes.

And most of it is already in Cumbria.

Imagining that 116 tons of Plutonium and all the other nuclear material which is already here will somehow magically go away if you put up posters demanding that there should be no nuclear waste here, or worse, trying to sabotage any attempt to get a rational discussion going about how we can most safely manage the nuclear waste which we already have by vilifying anyone who takes part in a conversation about it is not just incredibly stupid but utterly irresponsible.

Sadly that is precisely what was allowed to stop the "Managing Radioactive Waste Safely" programme a few years ago.

Now there is another attempt underway to look at how to best manage the nuclear waste which Britain already has. Cumbria County Council was invited to nominate a representative to take part in the working group which is looking at the issue.

We learned a few weeks ago that the Labour Leader of the council declined to respond to this offer. Previously the Copeland local committee asked if we could take up the place if he doesn't want it.

We were told today that the council has to decide and inform the working group whether they are going to take up the place before they can consider reallocating it. And that the matter was not brought to the Council cabinet for decision.

The council's local committees do have the power to refer an issue to Cabinet, so I proposed that we do so. This was unanimously passed.

Regardless of whether you agree with my views on nuclear power or whether you take a different view, it is absurd that the County Council should not even seek to be represented in discussion on something so vital to West Cumbria.

We should have locally elected councillors on that working group - from each level of local government - and reporting back to their councils about what is going on, and being held to account for their decisions in an open and transparent way.

Not to take part is a complete abdication of responsibility.

7 comments:

Gary Bullivant said...

I listened in online. I think the committee, which I understand includes Cllr Andy Pratt who is a member of the WG wearing one of his many other local authority hats - area Parish rep, missed the point slightly. RWM wrote to the Council prior to the forming of the WG because government policy required them to do so. Now the WG has formed RWM are just one (important) member. I can assure you that I will be contacting fellow WG members shortly expressing our Interested Party's support for dealing directly with your Cttee, noting that Cllr Pratt can fill that role comcurrently if required.

But there is a significant point regarding "official" representation. The WG exists only because one of the two relevant Principal Local Authorities is prepared to take part in it. Your Cttee's participation with anything other than full delegated authority from CCC will not change that situation. In the end, nothing less than delegated authority will be do so I commend you for the twin track approach you agreed to propose.

Chris Whiteside said...

I would much prefer the County Council to be represented with full delegated authority which is why we referred the matter to the county cabinet asking them to consider either appointing someone or delegating to us the ability to do so.

However, I think that even if we can't get that, having councillors involved from each level of local government would be a useful democratic input - hence the other part of the "twin track" approach which as you rightly say we agreed to follow.

Chris Whiteside said...

Pleased to hear you tuned in online by the way.

I think it's a shame that it took the pandemic for us to make the facility of watching and listening to the meetings online available to the public. I hope we can continue making this available when the pandemic is over and that people will continue to keep an eye on what we are up to.

It can only be a good thing for democracy if voters know what their representatives are doing.

Gary Bullivant said...

If there is a local government re-organisation and an election later this year then the WG will want to establish, seamlessly, the necessary democratic legitimacy with whoever comes out on top.

Chris Whiteside said...

That can and should be done when and if it happens.

However - and I presume you are not suggesting that it should be used as one - that is not a reason not to delay involving elected representatives now.

Gary Bullivant said...

Elected representatives are already involved at the level required by government policy. I am suggesting that, as both CCC and CBC are progressing towards a single level of local authority, democratic legitimacy is more than adequately provided for already. I look forward to seeing proposals as to where the unitary Ward boundaries should lie.

Personally, I see Marchon as a potential site for GDF headworkings. On that subject, how is the WCM situation on licensing and planning permission developing?

Chris Whiteside said...

To answer your last question first we are awaiting one final signature on the Section 106 agreement and then it can be finalised and planning permission will be issued.

With respect, I don't entirely agree with your first point.

Firstly, because although there is a very strong possibility that it will happen, it is by no means certain, and therefore to accept one of the major levels of government not being involved on the basis of a change which might not happen is a bit premature.

Secondly, if we do have a new unitary authority or authorities, it will not be a continuation of the county council (even if it's a single unitary) or of the district councils, but a completely new authority.

Hence to have only one level of local government represented (or rather two including the Town and Parish level) but not the other main level is a significant omission.

As regards what the ward or division boundaries would be it is too early to say, though I know that the government was keen for proposals to come forward which did not "split" existing districts or go over county boundaries precisely because that increased the chances that existing electoral wards or divisions could be used to build the new authorities and make the changes less complex and easier and quicker to implement,
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