Feedback on Overview and Scrutiny Meeting

The first meeting of the new "External" overview and scrutiny committee of Copeland Council took place today.

Member of the committee spent a large part of the day interviewing people connected with the courts service in Whitehaven about the proposals now out to consultation to move both the county court and magistrate's court in Whitehaven to Workington.

These are part of a set of national proposals for the courts service which have been floating around for a while: one of the first things we heard today was that these did not jsut come forward after May's elections.

We heard a great deal of evidence raising concerns about these proposals, which do not appear to take adequate account of the poor transport links in West Cumbria or the size of the area that the Workington court would have to serve.

We also heard strong and compelling evidence that these proposals are not necessarily the most cost effective option. If the Whitehaven County and Magistrates' courts were combined in the Whitehaven Magistrates court building, there would be some savings, and the Whitehaven Magistrates'court building would require minimal capital investment to accomodate the county court cases.

However, the Workington building is not big enough to accomodate all three courts without massive and very expensive investment, which the service would have trouble finding the money to carry out.

The other issue discussed was the Fire Service in Whitehaven. We are hearing suggestions, which give rise to grave concern, that there may be reductions in service. The committee has set up a group to investigate and scrutinise these proposals, which will meet next week.


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