“Let’s ensure that every voice is heard”

Roger PUTNAM  Vice-Chair, West Cumbria Liberal Democrats
(writing in the Whitehaven News)
Picture – Liberal Democrats Rebecca Hanson and Roger Putnam at the Success Regime Consultation in Whitehaven 19th October 2016.
I want to support the recent pleas by Chris Whiteside and Jamie Reed in this column to urge all local folk to make their voices heard, loud and clear, on the Success Regime report into our health services in West Cumbria. We should all endorse the excellent “Save our Services” campaign by this paper and your sister papers to demand a fundamental rethink here. Local Liberal Democrats strongly support the campaign to maintain full maternity services at West Cumberland Hospital and to retain stroke patient care. To do otherwise would be unsafe and discriminatory.
Recent public meetings in Whitehaven showed massive support for retaining these services at WCH. The strength of feeling has been overwhelming, especially amongst those working in the hospital maternity department. The vital need now is for all who participated to reply in good time to the Consultation ending on December 9th. I hope too that all community organisations will register their full backing for the campaign. If they all do this, then there is a chance that the Success Regime will eventually see sense.
We have a brand new hospital, and yet it is still unclear what services it will provide. What a ludicrous situation! It reflects the chaos into which the NHS has fallen nationally in recent years. At the heart of the problem across the country is that we have not yet found an effective method of managing and financing the NHS to meet the changing needs of the 21st century. The total NHS deficit for 2015/2016 reached some £3.5 bn. There has to be a radical review of health-care and a recognition that substantial additional funding is needed, targeted especially to areas like ours with real disadvantages of poverty and remoteness.
That is why the Liberal Democrats are establishing an independent review body, similar to the pioneering Beveridge committee of the 1940s which proposed the creation of the NHS as the central feature of the Welfare State. This will examine the whole problem of health and social care provision at the national level, and explore ways of properly funding what is now needed. However this cannot happen overnight. The only answer as an immediate course of action is to allocate substantial new resources to the existing NHS if it is not to be irreparably damaged. I believe that there is now only one realistic course and that is to increase taxation specifically to retain and improve NHS services before they disappear.
Recent public meetings have emphasised the problem of recruiting staff at our hospitals. I recognise that this is a national rather than a local problem and it reflects a wider dissatisfaction with current NHS management and organisation. However recruitment at WCH is especially adversely affected by the ongoing uncertainties about the future of our local hospital. Senior staff will not be tempted to seek jobs where that future is so unclear.
Having spent a week-end in the WCH recently, I must pay tribute to those outstanding staff who give selfless support to their patients, despite current uncertainty and shortage of resources. They will all be hoping for a maximum public response to the present consultation. So make sure to send in your views!

Election Success in Cockermouth

Dragons Den 1

Education policy campaigner Rebecca Hanson won a by-election to become Cockermouth’s first ever Liberal Democrat Councillor on Thursday 22nd September 2016.  Rebecca now represents Christ Church Ward.

Debbie Taylor came second in the Allerdale by-election on the same day, achieving a 20% swing to the Liberal Democrats.

Cockermouth Neighbourhood Development Plan

Debbie Taylor writes in the Times & Star today:
Debbie Taylor

Dear Sir,

I applaud the positive, can-do attitude of more than 30 people who attended a forum on Tuesday 2 August arranged by Cockermouth and District Civic Trust “in a bid to gauge interest in developing a Neighbourhood Development Plan.”

In favour of transparency, I want to ask why the Town Council have rejected this progressive sounding initiative as being “a waste of time and money.” (Times and Star, August 5) Neighbourhood Development Plan or not, surely it would be very helpful for the community to know their Town Council’s opinions on this matter.

As someone who visits the town every day; with a son who attended Cockermouth School until recently, I am concerned about Cockermouth’s infrastructure and sustainability as it grows. We all know that housing initiatives, for instance, need to be supported by other essential services. Moreover, particularly if there are a great many new houses, a Community Impact Assessment is key. In the 20-odd years I’ve lived here I have seen Cockermouth change dramatically and, for the most part, I have embraced those changes. However, we all have a responsibility to start to look holistically at the infrastructure and development of Cockermouth in order to help support, among other pressing concerns, young people; senior citizens; start up enterprises and our existing independent businesses. As Darren Ward, architectural adviser to the Civic Trust said (Times and Star, August 5) there is a “growing concern that the town is moving very rapidly towards dormitory status.” Mr Ward feels this will be irreversible. This has happened in many villages, we cannot let it happen to our town.

There needs to be a mindful debate where everyone can participate, including the Town Council. Could this happen using social media? I am led to believe that Cockermouth Town Council are one of the few councils still not making use of that medium. If the readers of this newspaper believe that many heads are better than one, might I also suggest, in the words of my colleague Rebecca Hanson, that “the Town Council needs to be crowdsourcing their capacity to work on complex issues – like a town plan and flooding – through social media.”

A Neighbourhood Development Plan might provide an amazing opportunity, not least to listen to the community – and that is paramount; and partnership working. An ambitious and focused initiative could improve the physical environment, economic wealth and prospects for Cockermouth.

Debbie Taylor, West Cumbria Liberal Democrats

Call for a General Election


Phill Roberts writes in the local papers:

Dear Sir

Conservative MPs have selected Theresa May as our next Prime Minister without any democratic vote. I’m sure many will be concerned that a Prime Minister can be chosen by a few members of Parliament without a general election.

Following the 2011  Fixed Term Parliaments Act a general election can only be called in exceptional circumstances by two thirds of MPs or if a budget fails to get approval by Parliament.

The need to change the policies set out in the Conservative manifesto to meet the changing circumstances following the Brexit vote clearly satisfies the test of exceptional circumstances, however we will have to wait and see if two thirds of MPs vote for a General Election.

Although many will be outraged at the prospect of not having a vote or say in who will be our next Prime Minister, there is recent precedent set by the Labour Party, when they chose Gordon Brown to be our Prime Minister.

At the time Theresa May called for a General Election and baited the Labour Party that they were scared to call a General Election. Now we have Theresa May stating that she will not call an early election and the Labour Party once again in the midst of its own election for a more presentable, electable leader.

In the interests of democracy and the need to have a Parliament that reflects the wishes and interests of the country post Brexit, rather than the self interest of any political party there should be a General Election.

Only a new Parliament will have a mandate to negotiate a New Deal with Europe that recognises the wishes of the 51.8% who voted to Leave and the 48.2% who voted to remain.

Yours sincerely

Phill Roberts

(Copeland & Workington Liberal Democrats)

Strawberry Cream Tea – Loweswater – 24 July

Rowenas house


Date:     Sunday 24 July 2016 from 2-5pm
Venue:  Lowpark, Loweswater, CA13 0RU

Pretty garden directly beneath Melbreak with views of other fells too. (Will be held under cover / indoors if wet)

*        Delicious home made scones with jam and cream,   strawberries and a cuppa (or two!)  Juice for children
*        Raffle – to be drawn at 3.30pm
*        Activities – Treasure Hunt, Guess the Teddy Bear’s Name
*        On sale – Margot’s Vanilla Fudge
*        Cost£5 per adult, £2 per child (proceeds to Lib Dems)

Important:  To help us plan the catering RSVP to Rowena Watkins by Friday 15 July, if possible:
Tel:        01946 862 466  (ansaphone available)
Email:     [email protected]

Parking available but please car-share where possible.

Directions from the Kirkstile Inn, Loweswater:
Go down the hill, following the sign that says “No road to the lake”.  After approx. 0.5 mile, take the right hand fork.  Go over humpy bridge and Lowpark is immediately in front of you.  You will be helped to park. (If lost: Tel: 01900 85242)

Directions from Low Lorton:
Follow signs for Loweswater.  Do not take left turn for Buttermere but continue up Scale Hill and over bridge.  Take the first left turn, signed Low/Highpark.  After approx. 1 mile, take left fork, go over humpy bridge and Lowpark is immediately in front of you.

We need a general election

Rebecca Hanson in today’s Times & Star

Libdem conference speaking autumn 2014

Dear Sir,

As an IN campaigner who spent many hours on the streets of Workington and Cockermouth listening to voters, I’d like to offer two reflections on the EU referendum and some suggestions as to how we might move forward.

Firstly, many OUT voters did not have a clear vision of what they wanted after an OUT vote.  Those who did had visions which were wildly incompatible with each other. Some wanted to get rid of the common market.  Others considered it essential.  Some wanted to get rid of the European Convention on Human Rights.  Others wanted higher wages and better employment conditions.  Some wanted to get rid of foreigners, whereas others didn’t.  Many were very angry that they had no clear alternative to the EU to vote for.

They were right to be angry.  David Cameron behaved recklessly and selfishly when he called this referendum.   He should have allowed and encouraged his MPs to debate Brexit thoroughly but he knew this would mean that either the party would reject having a referendum and some of his MPs would move to UKIP and develop proper post Brexit policy people could vote on, or they would embrace Brexit, they would develop post-Brexit policy within the Conservative party and he would lose some of his MPs to pro-EU parties.  Either way we would have had a clear alternative to EU membership to vote on.  The fact we have ended up in a complete mess is down to his decision to prevent honest debate in his party.  His put his pursuit of power before the national interest.

The second theme I noticed was that no OUT voter I met had understood how the EU operates to resolve trade disputes and prevent their escalation.  It seemed that people who had known about and considered this issue had become IN voters.  Again I blame David Cameron.  He should have explained these important issues to voters instead of patronising them by presenting them with simple arguments to which he thought they’d respond.  Because he didn’t talk about important issues, we’re left in a situation where Brexiteers won the referendum without developing a coherent alternative to essential EU policies such as trade dispute resolution.

Our MPs now need to put their country before their own interests and before their petty in-fighting.  They need to call a vote of no confidence in the government that will lead to an emergency general election.  The main parties can then set out their manifestos to include a second referendum or not.  A coherent vision of ‘out’ should be developed either by UKIP augmented by Tory MPs who move to it or by the Conservative Party.

If a second referendum is called, both sides should present the issues at a much deeper, and therefore more honest, level.

I would recommend that IN voters consider joining the Liberal Democrats.  I’d never previously been interested in the EU (as many people in Cumbria know I’m passionate about education policy), however you learn a lot about other issues by being a member of a party where there is constant lively and critical debate between people who are passionate about building an inclusive and fair society but who understand that this can’t be achieved without a strong economy.  I’m glad I understood the EU sufficiently well to be able to assess the credibility both of the arguments and of the individuals presenting those arguments.

Rebecca Hanson, Cockermouth





The EU Referendum

Elizabeth Barraclough

West Cumbria Liberal Democrats Chair Elizabeth Barraclough writes in the Whitehaven News:

Why stay in Europe?

Liberal Democrats are convinced we should stay in Europe. At the time when we were all waiting to see what deal for Britain could be achieved, we were reminded that there were many more pressing concerns in the world – such as the migrant crisis, the war in Syria, the problems on the Russian border and rising sea levels resulting from Climate Change. Our view is that these difficult, almost intractable, problems cannot be solved by individual countries but must be tackled by working together in Europe, in the Commonwealth and in the United Nations.

What we cannot achieve alone is progress to combat environmental impacts. In Cumbria, we have seen the effect of the predicted warmer, wetter winters. Europe has to set an example and to provide the knowledge and techniques – Solar Power, Fusion Energy, Carbon Capture – for third world countries. The EU can and has tackled Europe-wide problems like the rescue of fishing stocks in the North Sea.

I am concerned about the many things we would lose by opting out. Our students are able to pursue courses in other EU countries – improving their understanding of different communities and learning to cooperate across language barriers. Crime is global, so criminals must be pursued across national boundaries using the European Arrest Warrant throughout Europe. Many Brits choose to retire to warmer climes in Europe, this would become much less easy.

We need the EU if we are to attract investment to create jobs and opportunities. Would Nissan have opted to build a new car in the North East if we were not in the EU?

Perhaps the greatest but not so obvious achievement of the EU is peace in Europe for 80 years. Those of us old enough to remember the second world war know that European countries must cooperate to avoid conflict.

The EU will continue. It needs to be reformed to avoid the financial problems that Greece and other countries have experienced. We need to be in the EU to help it achieve its potential of creating a Europe where everyone can live prosperously and in peace.



Loraine Birchall, the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Cumbria Police and Crime Commissioner election, has launched her campaign. Loraine will be fighting for a fair funding formula for rural police forces, and collected signatures in Kendal to back her campaign.

A key issue for Loraine will be her campaign for a fair funding deal for rural police forces. Changes to the police funding formula are expected to be brought back later this year, having initially been postponed following a number of high profile errors in the government’s figures in November 2015. Under the original proposals, rural forces were due to lose out on significant amounts of funding compared to urban ones, due to the criteria used.

Loraine has lived in Cumbria for 40 years, and has a teenage son. She has an in-depth understanding of the local police, as her father, brother and former husband have all served as special constables for Cumbria Police. Prior to her current work as a web developer and management consultant, Loraine worked at BAE Systems in Barrow, and she also serves as a tenant board member for South Lakes Housing – the largest housing association in South Lakeland.

Loraine’s priorities for the police include improving safety for women including taking domestic violence more seriously, tackling crimes against small businesses and ensuring a visible policing presence on our streets. Loraine also wants to address the growing problem of cyber-crime.

Loraine commented: “As Police and Crime Commissioner, my priority would be to keep our communities safe. I want to restore the trust of Cumbrians in our Police Service, but to do that we need to have the resources to keep our county safe.

“The government last year decided to postpone the funding formula changes which would have drastically reduced Cumbria Police’s funding. However, these changes are still on the cards. I will be campaigning to ensure that rural areas like Cumbria are given a fair funding deal. The criteria used must recognise the challenges involved in policing large rural areas. It was clear from talking to residents today and collecting signatures for my petition that they too feel strongly about this.”

South Lakes MP Tim Farron said: “Loraine would make a fantastic Police and Crime Commissioner. She is knowledgeable about policing and understands the challenges facing the force, but more importantly she cares deeply about Cumbria. I’m backing Loraine.”


Phill Roberts on West Cumbria Hospital


Health & Social Care Provision

During the thirty years I have lived and worked in Cumbria our Health Services have lurched from one crisis to another, none more urgent than the current crisis, despite the hard work of our nurses and health care workers.

I have benefited from some amazing care from my GP, at the Cumbria Infirmary and – when my grandchildren were born – in the West Cumberland Hospital. At times I have wondered if I have been looked after by a different health care system than the one being reported on in the press. However the evidence of system failure is now overwhelming. Indeed much of the NHS is in crisis.

Our community has during this time had many health and social care interventions both national and local that can only be viewed in hindsight as temporary measures covering up long-term problems.
I have attended the meetings of health care professionals in locality meetings that eventually established the Clinical Commissioning Group, as a community representative before Healthwatch took over the role of community engagement.

It was evident during the meetings that the organisations involved in the provision of our health care were competitors in health care provision and that opportunities for engaging in true partnership development would be limited. This was brought into sharp focus when I asked questions about double funding of services and overarching responsibilities; there appeared to be no willingness to look at a whole systems approach,(shared budgets etc.) at the time. Although health care professionals understood the concept of joined-up thinking, they were focused on their own budgets and responsibilities at the time.

The commissioning process has developed a competition model within health and social care that, far from driving up standards of service, has increasingly led to a health and social care model that treats patients as consumers of services, inevitably driving down costs to the lowest common denominator and often failing to address the individual needs of patients.

We now have the implementation of yet another strategy, optimistically titled “The Success Regime” and overseen by yet more national bodies. Whether this new intervention can establish a more collaborative health and social care model able to deliver the services needed by our community only time will tell.

We have new facilities at the West Cumbria Hospital, a new Community Hospital in Cockermouth and a number of new community initiatives in health and social care. However I remain sceptical about how or even whether these services are working collaboratively or in a joined up model of service delivery.

How to contact West Cumbria Liberal Democrats:

Tel. Phill Roberts on 01697321609 or 07730284529
Email: <[email protected]> Twitter : phillrobertsli1

Phill Roberts is the current chair of West Cumbria Liberal Democrats.  This article was recently published in the Whitehaven News.