Article in Times & Star (19th October 2023) responding to false claims made by an opposition candidate for Penrith and Solway.
I am occasionally forced to write to correct factual anomalies on these pages, as is the case this week. I was disappointed but not entirely surprised to see the efforts of the Lib Dem candidate to mislead voters in her column published in the October 12th edition of the Times & Star. The Liberal Democrats have never been known to let facts get in the way of a good yarn. It is a strange coincidence that yellow, the colour of deceit, figures so prominently in Lib Dem livery.
She claims Cockermouth School is “crumbling” due to concrete issues - by which I assume she means RAAC.
Either she hasn’t done her school homework, or she is being deliberately dishonest. If she had done her homework, she would not have missed the announcement that investigative survey work has subsequently confirmed that the areas previously identified are not RAAC but precast concrete. All areas of the school that had been closed as a precaution (all were non-teaching areas) were able to reopen immediately.
This mirrors the position in schools across the country following investigative work, but I can forgive her in part - as the the absence of this concrete received nothing like the media coverage of its expected existence. Only a local candidate might be expected to know.
Given the sudden, unexpected failure of ‘non-critical’ RAAC that occurred elsewhere in the country, I don’t know anyone that would have wanted the DfE to take a different course of action, or one less swift as some appeared to calling for - complaining it was too close to the start of term to be taking preventative action.
What your readers wouldn’t know from the column is that Cockermouth School is to be rebuilt regardless. I have been working hard for some time to secure their place in the school rebuild programme which has recently been confirmed – and to ensure that the school is prioritised within the early tranches of Government funding, in line with my stated plan to provide the best possible start in life to the next generation.
I don’t feel the need to address the rest of the hyperbole. Most will see it for the disingenuous politicking it is. Except perhaps, those that don’t wish to see.
I was surprised, however, that she wished to raise the issue of sewage.
Despite what some might have you believe, with the exception of a small number of Combined Storm Overflows (CSOs) with particular issues, most of Cumbria’s ‘sewage’ problems arise from unmonitored septic tank overflows - and not from the release of water in storm conditions to prevent the flooding of houses, as CSOs are designed to do
And we know this, because we’ve gone from almost zero monitoring of storm overflows in 2010 to 95% now, and 100% by the end of the year. Contrast with Labour-run Wales, which has a not-for-profit water company, and has 6x more storm overflow incidents but the highest bills in the UK.
In Scotland, where water is nationalised, average bills are £33/yr less than in England - but with an estimated incidence of storm overflow 17 times higher than England. It has to be estimated - because only 3% of overflows are monitored.
Closer to home, we see what Labour and the Lib-Dems do on sewage when they’re in control. And readers will be shocked to find that it doesn’t match their rhetoric. Neither Westmorland and Furness or Cumberland use their 60 year old powers effectively on the septic tank overflows (and cross-connections) that cause most of the problems in our rivers and lakes, choosing instead to ignore the issue completely.
Lib-Dem controlled Westmorland and Furness gone further though. As they own the lake bed in Windermere, they permit the United Utilities overflow…
Sometimes those whose houses are made of glass, are the quickest to throw stones.