Whitehaven News – Christmas/New Year message

Determination, resilience and grit are the hallmarks of our community – in many ways they have always had to be. We should be rightfully proud of these, but it’s time we added ambition and aspiration to the characteristics for which we are known.
2014 has been a hard year. We knew it would be and the projected further spending cuts delivered by the government for Copeland Borough Council – the joint highest in the country – will ensure that 2015 is as hard if not harder still than 2014.
2015 is election year and I expect that the country will have had enough of hearing about this by the end of January. Sadly, the cynicism will serve us all badly as this will be an extremely closely fought election and the stakes are as high as they have ever been for communities like ours, the NHS and the public sector as a whole now that the government has joyfully proclaimed that it wishes to take spending back to levels last seen in the 1930s…
All of which makes for real difficulty for Copeland Borough Council and for the soon to be newly elected mayor. The government’s spending plans represent a hospital pass that no local politician deserves – but the community’s fight back is underway and it is essential that we build upon this in 2015.
Whatever the spending cuts and whichever party or combination of parties forms a national government in May 2015 – our future is brighter than it has ever been.
Why? Because collectively we ensured that the hospital new build project was reinstated after being cancelled by the government, because the NuGen project to build new nuclear reactors is progressing well, because we are seeing investments in the Whitehaven town centre and plans are moving forward for new school investments .
Yes; the fight for hospital services carries on. We know what we want, what we were promised and what we deserve, yet the new hospital must surely enable us to deliver all of this. Yes; we need more town centre investments but Albion Square is a fantastic start. Yes; we need to grow our private sector and rebalance our local economy and NuGen’s Moorside project represents a once in a generation opportunity  to achieve this. Yes; we need to ensure that every child in Copeland has the opportunity to excel at school and take advantage of the opportunities we are creating and this is why the school project is so exciting.
So whatever is thrown our way in 2015, the plans we began to draw up in 2005 and which we have been working to deliver ever since, means that our fundamentals are strong and that the opportunities facing us are unique. Our ambitions are huge. We should rightly aspire to become one of the fastest growing economies in the UK. In doing so, we should seek to extinguish poverty from our community.
We should face 2015 with optimism, we should relish the challenges ahead. I don’t believe that there is a comparable community anywhere in the country with anything like the opportunities now before us. None of this has happened by accident, but there is still plenty to do.
In 2015 we wave goodbye to our traditional ceremonial mayor and we should commend Copeland’s final such Mayor, Cllr Eileen Eastwood, for maintaining the tradition and undertaking her duties with genuine distinction.
We should thank all of our public servants – teachers, medical workers, council staff, fire fighters, police and more for continuing to work under such duress and for continuing to work for us.
Most of all, we should look forward to 2015 with new ambition and a fierce sense of aspiration to make Copeland the place we all know it can and should be.

Happy Christmas. Let’s make 2015 our year.
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