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Copeland Mayor’s budget plans buck national trends

Mike Starkie

[C]OPELAND Council’s Elected Mayor is bucking the national trend in his budget proposals, according to a new report.

Mike Starkie says that his proposed budget, presented to members of Copeland Council this week, is one of “growth and regeneration” and includes major investment across the borough.

In his proposals for 2018/19, Mr Starkie plans to limit the increase in Copeland’s share of council tax to 1.95 per cent – lower than the permitted three per cent – and does not intend to dip into the council’s reserves to balance the budget.

In contrast, a nationwide survey from the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) revealed yesterday (Thursday) that 73 per cent of councils intend to put their council tax up by more than 2.5 per cent. Additionally, 68 per cent of councils intend to use their reserves to balance the budget.

Mr Starkie’s proposed budget also sees car parking charges and entry fees to The Beacon Museum, Whitehaven, frozen for 2018/19.

The Mayor said: “These national figures illustrate how positive my budget proposals are for the residents of Copeland. The LGIU’s figures show that we are bucking the national trend in our spending plans.

“We’re allowed to increase council tax by up to three per cent – and the vast majority of councils around the country are doing so – but I will not pass this increase on to our residents.”

Also included in the Mayoral budget proposals is over £2million investment in the council’s recycling, bereavement and IT services, including the building of an additional small chapel for more intimate services at Distington Hall Crematorium.

Further plans during 2018/19 include a new Tourist Information Centre for Copeland, for which £75,000 has been earmarked in the budget, and the expansion of the popular Pride of Place Town Centre Regeneration Scheme to include public realm improvements.

Mr Starkie added: “We are planning to not only maintain frontline services, but grow and invest in them, including our recycling, bereavement and IT services, along with investment in tourism with the new Tourist Information Centre.

“Furthermore, we are continuing to prioritise the most vulnerable people in society, illustrated by a £250,000 investment in projects tackling social issues including isolation, inclusion and domestic violence.

“Given the dire state of Copeland’s finances when I came into office in 2015, this represents a remarkable turnaround in our fiscal position.”

Mr Starkie’s budget proposals were formally received by the Full Council on February 7 and a vote will take place on February 20.

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