THE elected mayor of Copeland Mike Starkie has confirmed that he will be standing again in May’s election.

Mr Starkie has said he intends to run a “positive campaign” based on his record since he became the borough’s first directly-elected mayor  in 2015.

Among the challenges faced during his tenure have been a continued decline in Government funding, the need to plug a £13m black hole in the finances left by previous administrations and a devastating inter-state cyber attack which crippled the council.

He said: “The last four years have presented some real challenges – some that were expected and others that were not.

“They have all been dealt with head-on without flinching from some tough decisions.”

As part of his continuing mission to run the council like a 21st-century business, Mr Starkie has slashed the number of paid interns and consultants, with all staff roles filled by council employees.

He said: “Four years ago I pledged and was committed to putting the interests of the people of Copeland before petty party political and personal interests.

“Four years on I believe that more strongly than ever. The council is now operating within its budget and improving on services – at the same time lessening the burden of taxpayers by pegging council tax, fees and charges below the rate of inflation.

“We have made zero cuts to services and have managed to put investment back into our services including IT, recycling and street cleansing.”

Mr Starkie also highlighted the ‘pride of place’ regeneration initiative which has improved buildings across the borough and the opening of a tourist information centre to boost visitor numbers.

The mayor has also been working with partners and investors on a social programme intended to help some of the most vulnerable people in Copeland.

Mr Starkie’s campaign will be led by well-known local businessman Gerard Richardson.

The mayoral candidate for the Conservatives will be Millom Councillor Ged McGrath who has set out a six-point plan which includes: keeping council tax low; cleaner towns and villages; local homes for local people; working together to ensure that no community is left behind and offering support for those who need it most.

Labour candidate Linda Jones-Bulman has pledged to be a “strong voice” for Copeland as whole amid claims the borough is being “ignored and left behind”.