The Public Services

The Public Services

The Cumbria Constabulary

Over the last twenty years or so the visible presence of the police force around the region has changed from that of the solitary bobby laboriously pedalling an archaic bicycle round his own immutable beat to that of three-man teams who share a van that is stocked with accident and first-aid equipment, and who provide between them a two-man 24-hour coverage of their combined areas. This change means, in the rural areas especially, that the policeman who arrives in response to your call may not be the friendly neighbourhood police­man who lives three miles down the valley and knows every­one in his area by first-name. The loss in personal contact is viewed with very mixed feelings within the police force—the misgivings tend to be more clearly articulated as the distance increases from the police headquarters in Penrith.

The patterns of crime round the region fall broadly into two main categories – travelling crime, based on or using the motorway and the other through roads; and local crime, which tends to be sporadic and, in comparison, fairly trifling. In common with other regions that have been blessed with a motorway link, Cumbria is now being visited by organised groups who travel into the area for a specific crime (a safe-blowing or a wages-snatch) and immediately return via the motorway whence they came. In addition to these specific visitations, the region also suffers from the unorganised attentions of people who commit chance crimes that occur to them on their Way through the region (petty larceny, or stealing a car in, for example, Kendal and then abandoning it a few hours later in Keswick). The completion of the motorway, while opening Cumbeia to the travelling criminal. has helped “normal” police work by freeing the A6. This road is no longer heavily congested, and thus as well as freeing the local constables from the task of constantly un­snarling jarnmd traffic, it can now be used as a quick north-south route for purely local traffic, including police vehicles.

Local crime is typically petty larceny, burglary, thefts from motor vehicles, hotel frauds, sheep stealing or poaching. It tends to come in spates which end when the culprit is caught and put away, or leaves the district under his own steam, or graduates to something else. Poaching, both of salmon and game, is regarded at the local levels with some serious­ness – salmon, because nowadays it involves explosives and poisons; game, because it is increasing considerably and in­volves the use of modern highly efficient lethal weapons that are outside the scope of normal fire-arms control (typically air-rifles). The incidence of small-time poaching, nainly for the pot or some beer-money, is very low; and it is norm­ally dealt with on an ad hoc basis by the local game-keepers or water-bailiffs.

The differences in culture patterns across the region are reflected in the patterns of juvenile (or emergent adolescent) delinquency and the incidence of compulsive violence. One police official, responsible tilor a district that included a market down, a depressed industrial sector, and a large rural area told the writer that in his experience juvenile delinquency and compulsive violence were practically non­existent in the rural areas. Where communities are more cohesive, and everyone known everyone else’s affairs, anti social behaviour cannot be expressed anonymously. He felt that delinquency had its roots in the industrial urban sector of his area, starting with minor crimes at age 14-15 years, developing in seriousness through the ‘teen years, and fading with the acquisition of steady girl-friends and wives.

It was generally held that the police and the public have a fairly good relationship within Cumbria, but as the dis­tance increases from police headquarters one hears increasing suggestions of a gradual decline. This was spelled out in West Cumiberiand as springing from the change in the rural areas bordering the National Park into a dormitory belt for the middle-management and executive personnel belonging to the new light industries that have come into the region. The suggestion was that because the new residents have no local ties or empathies, their only police contact is in con­nection with traffic offences.

Mountain Rescue

All mountain rescue operations within Cumbria are carried out by one or more of the half-dozen local volun­teer rescue teams, the regional R.A.F. mountain rescue team (if available) or the local Outward Bound School teams. Each of the civilian teams is quite autonomous within its own area; but the Lake District Mountain Acci­dent Association, on which all the civilian teams and the Cumbria Constabulary are represented, attempts to co­ordinate their long-term activities.

When either an accident or a missing person report is received at the Cockermouth police station the first three or four available rescue team officials on the police list are called to the police station. The first team official to arrive takes initial charge of the operation and, in turn, calls out by telephone as many of the team as he can contact. At the same time those team members who are not accessible by telephone are collected by a police van, and the team vehicles (normally Land-Rovers that are permanently fitted with radio and rescue equipment) are collected from the garage and brought round to the police station.

When, in the judgment of the team leader, sufficient team members have collected at the police station he will set off, leaving behind one member with relevant instructions for late arrivals, and a radio set for contact with the police.

Most turn-outs are for specific rescues and thus do not present any organisational problem, but area searches for missing persons, especially if the search is fruitless after several hours, may involve the decision of the team leader to call for the assistance of other rescue teams. In such multiple-team operations the over-riding control remains with the initial team leader, while co-ordination between teams is effected by the police. The local employers nor­mally release team-members for rescue operations without loss of pay, but any lost pay is made up from team funds.

The running costs of the Cockermouth Mountain Rescue Team, which is responsible for rescues in the Buttermere, Ennerdale, Lorton and Loweswater districts, are about £1000 per year. Equipment is worn out, or rendered un­safe, fairly quickly. Each vehicle has a quartermaster who checks every item of equipment on his vehicle after each turnout. Radio and lamp batteries are discarded auto­matically after every rescue operation merely to ensure that the equipment is reliable when next switched-on. The expenses are met by regular subventions from the local councils in the relevant area and donations from clubs whose members have been assisted by the team, from visi­tors who have learned of the team’s activities, from local organisations such as the Rotary and Round Table, from collection boxes in shops, hotels and restaurants, and from a mountain rescue exhibition that is put on during the sum­mer in the old school building in Buttermere. A local charitable trust fund sometimes loans money for specific, expensive, items (such as a new Land-Rover). These loans are repaid as quickly as possible by concentrated fund-rais­ing activities.

The police authority provides accident insurance cover for all team members while on a rescue operation, but there is no accident insurance while on practice exercises. A serious climbing accident during a practice turn-out of the Cockermouth team in 1968 (when two team members died) resulted in an almost complete cessation of practice exer­cises which still applies. Police officers at all levels in Cum­bria are unreserved in their admiration for the volunteer rescue teams, and plainly admit that without the teams there could be no mountain rescue.


The medical services have two main elements – the major hospitals that are located strategically on the regional rim at Carlisle, Whitehaven, Barrow-in-Furness and Lan­caster; and the local services, clustered round the market or tourist centre towns. These comprise G.P.s, the local authority, medical and welfare services (cottage hospitals, almoners, district nurses, etc.). Both main elements are supported by the ambulance service.

Typical of the region, from a patient’s-eye-view, is Cockermouth. Five G.P.s in independent practice service the local authority area – which includes isolated dale farms, dormitory villages on the edge of the National Park with their amalgam of farm and forestry workers, middle grade executives from the West Cumberland Industries, local professional people, and a spreading of elderly off-corners who have retired into the region. The local autho­rity (Cockermouth R.D.C.) health and social services work fairly closely with the G.P.s in operating the N.H.S. immunisation schemes and in providing extra-mural or after-care attention for discharged or out-patients.

The illness patterns in the area seem to be the typical ones of stress diseases among the professional and indus­trial executive patients, degenerative diseases (such as can­cer and coronary thrombosis) among the elderly, and what were termed “West Cumberland farming complaints that don’t appear in the medical text books but which respond to 18th century treatments and paternal verbal placebos.” Examples of these placebos were, “You are in a low way because the cows are not as happy as normal,” and “Your blood is getting overheated.”

The local authority personnel and the G.P.s agree that the main single problem, both socially and medically, which they face is that of the retired off-corners. The normal physical and psychological problems attendant on the read­justment from an active working life to a retiring one are made much worse when accompanied by a physical sever­ance of one’s social and cultural roots. The idyllic, isol­ated, cottages to which people retire are often lacking in mains services and are without a telephone; a delightful arrangement for the annual holiday, or the occasional week­end – but in the middle of a wild winter night with a severe coronary attack the idyll has the trappings of a night­mare. It is significant that all the dales people whom I know intend to retire into the local market towns, or to the non-industrialised coastal settlements. The people who deliberately choose to retire into the dales are mainly those who don’t normally live there.

Minor casualties – walking wounded from the fells, small industrial or domestic injuries, and medical cases that can be treated in hospital by the G.P. – are dealt with at the local cottage hospitals. Major casualties, medical and surgical, are routed in the first instance to one of the regional hospitals, such as the West Cumberland Hospital at White-haven. The G.P.s regard the increasing centralisation of hospital services as a retrograde step. They consider that the local hospitals are an asset which should, if necessary, be subsidised and that not only are the large (and distant) regional hospitals impersonal but, with the increase in road traffic, the delays encountered on the way to the hospital could materially affect the chances of survival after a severe accident in the rural areas. This last point was strenuously denied at the casualty department of the West Cumberland Hospital. On the basis of their experience they claimed that the ambulance journey from the upper end of either Buttermere or Wasdale to the casualty department at Work­ington has been known to take less than an hour, and in the height of summer not more than 90 minutes. One surgeon stated that in 13 years he had not known of one case which resulted in death because of delays or bad roads, and the general concensus was that any medical hazard due to con­gested roads was so low that it is totally insignificant.

I raised the question of excessive centralisation of hospi­tal services, and posed the case made by the rural G.P.s for the retention, and if possible expansion, of local hospi­tals. A member of the West Cumberland Hospital Man­agement Committee sympathised with the view. He then made the point that not only are some treatment facilities too expensive for general provision, but also that some treatments are so specialised that there are only a limited number of people in the entire country who can apply them.

The West Cumberland (Hospital is housed in a modern group of buildings just south of Whitehaven. It accepts all the major medical and surgical cases from the Maryport – Millom – Cockermouth local authority areas, and in addi­tion maintains a 24-hour major accident centre. What are called “The Super Specialities” – cases of severe spinal or head injury, acute drug addiction, requirements for cardio­thoracic surgery, or artificial kidneys, for example – are transferred to centres elsewhere in Britain. Specialist cases – dermatological, neurological, plastic surgery or child psychiatry for example – are initially examined at White-haven by visiting consultants in the out-patient clinic, and then routed to specialist centres in Northern England for treatment.

Accommodation is provided adjacent to the children’s wards to enable mothers to stay in the hospital with their children, either on a 24-hour or a day-time only basis. Be­cause. of the scarcity of week-end public transport, accom­modation is also provided for relatives who would otherwise be unable to visit patients; similarly, sitting-rooms are pro­vided for day-time use by patients with visitors. Children-‘s wards are open to visitors throughout the day, but other wards are more restricted.

The hospital is widely served by several voluntary groups. A League of Friends organises fund-raising activities to pro vide equipment (such as television sets) for the patients; the Reid Cross staffs a shop within the hospital where gifts such as chocolates and flowers can be bought for the patients; a library service is operated round the wards; and a volunteer ambulance car service is provided by private car owners through the Ambulance Service for patients who can be moved in a sitting position. Other, more individualist, volunteer services are those of ‘the geriatric ward visitors; spend their time talking and listening to the geriatric patients and writing letters for them; secondary schoolchildren in their fiffth and subsequent years who work in the long-stay wards on projects that have been agreed with the education authorities; and play leaders who help in the children’s wards.


The 19th Century Railway & Water Systems
The 19th Century Railway & Water Systems

The public transport systems in the region, like those in mixed urban/rural areas elsewhere in the country, are being steadily diminished. The rail network has been reduced to the two main lines from Scotland (Carlisle – ‘Lancaster – the south, and Carlisle – Appleby – the West Riding); three spur routes (Lancaster – Heysham, Oxenholme – Winder­mere, and Carnforth – Barrow); and a coastal loop from Barrow to Carlisle. The ‘Belfast ferry still plies out of Hey­sham (though its future is, at the time of writing, in serious doubt) and in the summer season a steamer service operates between Lakeside – Windermere – Ambleside. The bus services are mainly urban, local to Carlisle, Workington, Barrow, Kendal and Lancaster, with inter-urban services linking the industrial areas, market towns and tourist centres. There are also a dwindling number of rural routes, linking the upper dales or the remote lowland hamlets with the nearest town, and connections onto the national ‘trunk ser­vices (into Scotland, the north east of England, the West Riding and via Lancashire to the south).

The urban and inter-urban bus routes are highly profitable, and show no signs of diminishing demand. The rural ser­vices are steadily ‘ground between increasing costs and decreasing traffic. Where a bus company can show that a rural route is running at a loss the county authority is invited to subsidise the route as a social service. If the subsidy is not made the route is abandoned. The bus companies’ attitude towards the rural subsidy was largely one of grudg­ing acceptance; the subsidies are adjusted for each route on a break-even basis, and thus while they are not making a loss on the arrangement, each subsidised route represents capital tied-up without chance of profit. Private operators have taken over some discontinued routes, and by running a summer season mini-bus service to a carefully planned timetable that owes more to ‘passenger attraction than central adminis­trative convenience, appear ‘to be making a profit.

Various local authorities operate transport subsidy schemes for their old-age pensioners. The schemes vary – some areas issue a blanket voucher for a 50% discount on all off-peak bus journeys, and some areas periodically issue a fixed value of travel vouchers which, within the time allotted, can be tendered on any of the local buses instead of money.

Education in Cumberland

Two of the main constraints under which the Cumber­land County Education Department feels itself to be labour­ing both stem from the nature of the county – a sparsely populated rural area combined with an economically depres­sed urban coastal strip. To meet these problems, plus those of administering education during the transitions of the last two decades, the Department’s policy has been to maintain strict central control over finance while giving head teachers a considerable degree of autonomy on purely educational matters.

Primary education in the rural districts takes place mainly in two or three-class village schools which serve an area perhaps six miles in radius, and thus requires the organis­ation of transport facilities. Secondary education is organised co-educationally and non-selectively; though the decision, between having a single 11-18 years comprehensive school, or having separate grammar and secondary modern schools with a parental choice between the two at age 13, is made in the light of local views. The existence of two distantly separated buildings, both with a potential for con­siderable further economic usage, would pre-dispose towards separate types of school. On the other hand, all new secon­dary school building must be designed, no matter what the local circumstances, for compatibility with comprehensive education.

Thus, some areas have secondary schools which are academically separated from age 13 (with guided parental choice between the two alternatives) and some areas have all through (11-18) comprehensive schools. There is also a totally independent minor public school at St. Bees, and at Keswick there is a direct grant grammar school which local pressure insists on keeping sturdily independent with selec­tion at 11 years. The school has a boarding facility and the Education Department supports it by the provision of free places to children from outside the area whose home cir­cumstances prevent suitable alternative day-schooling and, by competitive examination, to local children within a severely restricted catchment area.

The staffing establishment for each school is kept as high as possible. Some education authorities maintain a pool of supply or part-time teachers who are drafted into a school as a temporary replacement when a vacancy occurs (be­cause of illness, for example). Cumberland does not main­tain such a pool – all the available money is spent on full-time staff. The result is one of the lowest genuine pupil/ teacher ratios in the country. The effects of this policy are that while there is sufficient staff available within each school to cope with any short-term absences, the low pupil/ teacher ratio imposes less strain on the teacher than a high one.

The county also maintains a large pool of full-time specialist advisers who are freely available to any head teacher, in an advisory capacity. In addition to the con­ventional school psychologist and general welfare advisers, there are about a dozen subject specialist advisers (maths, science, outdoor pursuits, etc.), pre-school nursery advisory teachers, and an advisory teacher with special responsibility for the educational priority area on the West Coast. The pre-school nursery and E.P.A. advisory teachers are secon­ded from normal teaching for fixed periods, at the end of which they return to normal teaching duties.

County policy is to try and cater for all abnormalities (physical, psychological, intellectual and environmental) within the normal school and class structure, removing children from their normal classes only if their presence places excessive strain on the school and staff. Remedial classes exist wherever necessary; their organisation is based largely on the judgment of the school psychologists.

Nursery schools have been created wherever resources permit, mainly in West Cumberland. Parents are involved in many schools as auxiliaries; listening to children reading, tying shoe laces. Many older secondary schoolgirls spend a few hours each week as helpers in infant classes. In all such cases where auxiliary help is given, it is only done with the positive backing of all concerned, and the presence of helpers is not allowed to interfere with normal teaching.

The County has adopted a community school policy in adult education. Most large secondary schools are further education centres with a purpose-built adult education block within the school grounds and an F.E. tutor on the school’s full-time staff. These centres provide facilities for formal, vocational and recreational study. Local societies such as drama groups and badminton clubs can pay an affiliation fee to the centre and use its facilities at preferential rates. The F.E. school staff members and the F.E. advisers on the county staff organise many outdoor activities based on the individual F.E. Centres and at the two county residential centres at Hawes End and Keswick.