Election 2015 England

Regeneration pledges by Copeland mayoral candidates

Left to right: Chris Whiteside; Steve Gibbons; Mike Starkie
Image caption Left to right: Chris Whiteside; Steve Gibbons; Mike Starkie

At the same time as voters take to the polls in the general and local elections, people in Copeland will be voting for a directly elected mayor.

The post will replace that of the council leader chosen by councillors, and follows a referendum a year ago.

Three candidates are contesting the post in the Lake District borough, which includes the town of Whitehaven.

Unsurprisingly, all are focussing on local issues, with economic regeneration a key priority.

'Free parking'

Conservative candidate Chris Whiteside said one route to achieving this would be to boost the town centres.

"There are a lot of boarded up shops, and businesses closing, we need to make sure our town centres are alive", he said.

"Instead of appointing a political assistant, I'd use the money to cut prices in council-owned car parks, and make them free after 3pm.

"I'd also look at using the council's property portfolio to make more parking spaces.

"All this would help bring people into the towns to use local businesses."

Image caption In 2014 people voted in favour of the post

He also stressed the importance of improving roads and making sure the council benefitted financially from forthcoming nuclear industry investment.

Mike Starkie, standing as an independent, said he would run the council as a business, commercialising council activities, and pursuing "a policy of self reliance rather than dependency".

One move would be to set up trading companies by themselves or in partnership with entrepreneurs to generate money.

'Values and beliefs'

He described his independent status as an asset.

"Locally, all [the main parties] do is put out manifestos that come down from the national parties", he said.

"It's my personal belief politics needs taking out of Westminster.

"Local government should put the needs of people first, before the interests of any party."

However, Labour candidate Steve Gibbons said: "If you are standing for a party people know what your values and beliefs are.

"But to be honest, it's less of an influence on the mayor than on an MP who has to go to work in Parliament on national issues".

Image copyright Google
Image caption The directly elected mayor will replace the council leader post

He highlighted the need to attract external funding, with the mayor deploying "skills of negotiation" to make people invest in the area.

He said: "It will be a team effort, working with MPs, stakeholders and volunteer organisations, and the mayor is vital to this.

"We've had major investment before, such as Thorpe, when there was a boom, but we lost it afterwards.

"We have to learn from that and put things in place for the long term."

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