LOCAL Democracy Reporter Ellis Butcher takes a look back at Barrow Council's 2019 and some of the big issues and news stories that emerged over the last 12 months.


The year started with good news as the council granted permission for a bingo hall to be created at the former Kwik Save supermarket site in Holker Street, which had stood empty for nine years. The development would create 25 new jobs – but residents living nearby had their concerns.

Barrow Citizens Advice revealed that 264 people had sought help with their debts in 2018. The debt total hit £1.1 million – a situation Barrow mayor Kevin Hamilton said was ‘horrendous’.


The search was to find a new executive director at Barrow Borough Council to replace long-serving Phil Huck who announced his plan to retire from the role after 32 at the council where he started his career as a planning assistant in 1986.

Concerns were raised by councillors over the worsening state of the fire-damaged House of Lords, which was gutted by a huge blaze in January 2019. Cllr Alan Pemberton called it a ‘blot on the landscape’ the situation was being delayed by a legal row. Barrow’s Forum 28 was hailed after new figures showed attendances at the council-owned venue hit 46,000 in just nine months – way ahead of target.


More than 3,100 motorists across the Barrow had been given parking on-street parking tickets in just 10 months. The rules, enforced by Cumbria County Council, showed that on average, 262 people a month in the area receive a penalty charge notice. Across Cumbria, a total of 37,000 tickets were handed down.

The rate of ‘contaminated’ waste left out for recycling in Barrow soared to 70 per cent, equivalent to 283 tonnes. Barrow Council faces financial penalties whenever waste has to be incinerated or sent to landfill. A minute’s silence was held by the council in memory of the 51 victims of the New Zealand mosque shootings.


EIGHTY five candidates announced they were standing for election for just 36 seats on Barrow Borough Council in the May local elections. The bulk represented Labour, Conservatives and UKIP. Neither the Liberal Democrats or Green Party put any candidates forward. A total of more than 52,000 people across the borough are eligible to vote, with Labour regaining control for a four year period. Long-standing council leader David Pidduck was replaced by Ann Thomson, with Cllr Kevin Hamilton replacing Bill McEwan as mayor.


Council officialdom was obstructing Barrow’s upcoming soapbox challenge, according to an outspoken local councillor. Conservative Sol Wielkopolski said stallholders wanting to take part were being charged expensive rates and said bureaucracy was ‘getting in the way’.

New Barrow council leader Ann Thomson hit back at Barrow MP John Woodcock and Conservative candidate Simon Fell who questioned her support for the shipyard, having been a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1980s. Cllr Thomson said: “I have never said anything against the yard. We have a booming shipyard which Labour fully supports.”


Barrow council backed plans which could pave the way for more than 1,800 new homes over the next 12 years. An annual target has been set for 119 new houses was set. A total of 15 potential housing sites were identified in Barrow, Dalton, Askam and Ireleth and Newton, among others. New town hall boss Sam Plum gave her first interview since taking up the job. Mrs Plum joined from Rossendale Borough Council in East Lancashire where she was a director. She said: “If we don’t fight for Barrow, no-one else is going to do it.”


Traffic turmoil at Barrow’s tip was on the agenda after frustrated drivers were left simmering in long queues. The household waste recycling centre on Walney Road had seen delays build-up on the A590 because of health and safety changes when containers were emptied or moved.

A row broke out at Barrow Council following the publication of figures which showed the council cancelled £130,000 of bad debts in housing. Cllr Hazel Edwards said taxpayers bore the brunt but Barrow mayor Kevin Hamilton said Universal Credit meant people were struggling to pay their rent.


Barrow council was on track with its £2.7 million budget cuts. The target, set in September 2016, followed funding cuts from Government which would have left the council with a budget deficit of £3 million by April 2020.

Critical concerns were raised about the risk of legionella at council-owned shops. As a result of the findings, the council drafted in a plumbing firm at sudden notice to carry out vital repair works to the affected properties to fix the matter.


Barrow’s Labour and Conservative councillors agreed to put party differences aside to call to end the taboo of suicide. Cllr Bill McEwan, whose son took his own life, and Dalton North Conservative Ben Shirley, called on the council to make a ‘series of commitments’ to help those struggling, including ‘mental health first aid’, to spot the warning signs of those in a crisis.

Councillors clashed over plans to recruit two new members of staff to Barrow Council costing £78,000.Conservative opposition leaders on the Labour-run council questioned the need for the new roles but the administration argued that staff had been ‘overstretched’ since austerity which had left a ‘gap’ at the top of the authority.


New figures showed that the repair bill to fix Barrow’s 320 back streets had soared to over £12 million – leading mayor Cllr Kevin Hamilton to declare them ‘third world’. Any fixes have to come out of an annual £1.2 million budget which is quickly eaten up by other highways jobs, a meeting heard.

Officials involved in Egerton Court on Barrow Island reported falling crime rates, reduced calls to the fire and ambulance services and increased participation mental health, alcohol and substance misuse programmes.


Conservative Simon Fell gained the Barrow and Furness seat in the General Election. Labour had held the seat for 32 years. He polled 23,876 votes, 5,789 more than Labour’s Chris Altree.