Liberal Democrats in West Cumbria share the wide concern across Copeland and Allerdale about the latest proposal to close the Magistrates and County Courts in Workington. It is only three years ago that our courts in Whitehaven were closed and relocated to Workington. If implemented, the new plan would leave this large county with only two courts in operation, in Carlisle and Barrow.
This is part of a wider trend in which key local services are removed from outlying areas and concentrated in a limited number of larger centres of population. Living in a rural area of Copeland, I have in recent years seen the closure of local post offices and local banks, and of course the virtual disappearance of local policing. And we all know of the continuing threat to key hospital services in the West Cumberland Hospital.
The argument for these changes is always the same – financial viability. But the assessment of true cost fails to take into account real but less easily measured costs, those of easy accessibility and convenience for local people. When those living in Whitehaven and even further south have to travel to Carlisle for hospital treatment or recourse to the law, then these vital services to which we all have a longstanding right become far too costly, both in terms of time and travel.
It seems completely perverse, just at a time when we can anticipate major growth in our local economy with the ambitious planned developments at Sellafield and Moorside, that services should be withdrawn or relocated in this way. We are unlikely to attract more professionals and people of talent into West Cumbria if our communities become even more remote from key public services.
Liberal Democrats also deplore the ongoing transfer of the probation service and parts of the prison service to private operators more interested in profit than in crime prevention. These key responsibilities should always remain part of the public service provision of the state.
We campaign to make all public services readily accessible to the people they are intended to serve, on fair and equal terms to all. We will continue to work locally and nationally for proper partnership and community support in all areas of life. This may be why, following the deeply disappointing results of recent elections, so many thousands have chosen to join the Lib Dems since May this year. If you would like more information about our priorities for West Cumbria, please make contact.