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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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War of words breaks out over Millom spending cuts

A MAYOR has hit back after being criticised for “betraying the elderly” over care home closures and his support for a skateboard park.

Conservative Cumbria county councillor and mayor of Millom, Brian Crawford is embroiled in a war of words with ex-Copeland borough councillor Robin Pitt.

Mr Pitt had attacked Cllr Crawford in a letter published in the Evening Mail on March 13, blasting the mayor’s support for the closure of residential care homes, and criticising his involvement in an expensive skateboard park project during a period of cuts.

The argument centres around a failed Tory proposal to get an alternative budget voted through by Cumbria County Council during a vote last month.

However the Labour and Lib Dem-controlled council voted for a raft of budget cuts which had been put out for public consultation.

Mr Pitt said the proposal, backed by Cllr Crawford, called for the closure of Lapstone House residential home and Millom Children’s Centre, as well as removing school clothing grants.

Mr Pitt also attacked Cllr Crawford’s support for the skatepark proposal in Millom Park.

“Why,” he asked in his letter, “when many people are choosing between food and heating, is [Cllr Crawford] pursuing funding for a grand skateboard park costing in excess of £350,000.”

He continued: “The idea of our mayor betraying the elderly in our community and the most seriously disadvantaged leaves a very sour taste indeed.”

On Tuesday night, Cllr Crawford responded to the letter, referring to the information regarding care home and children’s centre closures as “just another of Labour’s scary fairy stories”.

He also suggested that Mr Pitt’s defection from Conservative to Labour in 2008 had allowed him to pick up their “skills” in financial affairs and mud throwing.”

Quoting the Conservative Amendment document, Cllr Crawford pointed out that the proposals sought a reduction of funding to children’s centres, not closures.

He said that the county council would have had to close three care homes under the outvoted amendment, but that none had been specified, and that he would personally stand against any proposal to close Lapstone House.

On the subject of the skateboard park, Cllr Crawford reminded Mr Pitt that no public money was involved in the project, and that funding was to come from Sport England, the Big Lottery and the Copeland Community Fund.

He also corrected the figures stated in Mr Pitt’s letter, revealing the price of the project to be closer to £500,000, not £350,000.

This is not the first time that Cllr Crawford and Mr Pitt have clashed.

The pair locked horns in 2009 over the same skate park project, when Mr Pitt was involved in the project himself. On that occasion it was Mr Pitt on the receiving end, after Cllr Crawford accused him of losing project money.

Cllr Crawford argued that Mr Pitt, then leader of Millom and Haverigg Economic Development Group, failed to apply for funding in time and lost £340,000.

At that time Mr Pitt argued that Cllr Crawford was trying to shift blame away from himself.

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