Sunset at Morecambe Bay, which could be ruled by a single-tier unitary authority if Government approves the bid

Councils progress bid for combined Bay authority  

Sarah Townsend

Barrow Council, Lancaster City Council and South Lakeland District Council would be replaced with a single-tier unitary authority, under the plans revealed in October.

Councillors at each of the three authorities this week gave their backing to the proposal, following the conclusion of a three-week consultation that garnered around 4,000 responses.

Of the total, 85% of people said they believed the area would be best served by a combined unitary council for Morecambe Bay, compared to just 30% favouring a county-wide unitary for Cumbria and separate arrangements for Lancashire, the three local authorities said.

The proposed Bay unitary authority would continue to deliver existing services provided by the three councils but would also take on the services currently run by Cumbria and Lancashire county councils in the area.

Following councillor approval, Barrow, Lancaster and South Lakeland authorities have agreed to submit the plans to central Government tomorrow.

The full proposal presents the case for a new unitary council for the Bay, on the grounds that it would provide “greater cohesiveness” on shared priorities including building community power and engagement, reducing inequality and improving wellbeing, building community wealth and tackling the climate emergency”.

It also moots the creation of a second unitary in the north of Cumbria – comprising Allderdale, Carlisle, Copeland and Eden council areas. The two unitaries would be on a footprint that follows “natural geography” – the creation of the county in 1974 brought together areas around the mountains, but operationally there remains a particular distinction between north and south, according to the proposal.

The document says: “For the Bay there is a coherent functional economic area that we organise [operations] around, and 96% of people live and work in the area.

“The Bay and North Cumbria solution results in two sustainable unitary authorities that have the ability and resilience to be financially viable, to represent a significant population and provide a platform for wider regional cooperation and unitary solutions.’’

However, the reorganisation of local government in Cumbria remains uncertain, as Carlisle City Council’s executive committee this week approved the council’s own proposal to adopt a two-unitary model incorporating Eden, Carlisle and Allerdale in the North of the county, and South Lakes, Barrow and Copeland in the South.

Carlisle intends to submit its plans to Whitehall tomorrow.

Both proposals respond to a formal Government invitation for councils in Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset to submit locally led proposals for unitary local government.

In a joint statement, Cllr Ann Thomson, leader of Barrow Council, Cllr Erica Lewis, leader of Lancaster City Council, and Cllr Giles Archibald, leader of South Lakeland District Council, said: “We believe the option of a Bay unitary, linking up our three councils, has the potential to deliver the best outcomes for our communities and it seems that our communities agree.

“The results of the [consultation] are a clear endorsement of our proposal and we think we have a very strong and viable case. The Government asked for evidence of local support and we believe we have delivered that. It is now for the Government to decide whether to listen to those views and take the Bay proposal forward.’’

Leader of Carlisle City Council, Cllr John Mallinson, added: “We believe that the North and South unitary model for Cumbria is the best option for our residents, businesses and the wider region. It would result in effective and convenient local government with a strong sense of place.

“It’s the best way forward for Carlisle and Cumbria.”

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The Morecambe bay unitary authority make perfect sense …a more cohesive travel area …and fits in perfectly with the important health boundaries so would encourage integration

By George

I agree George. I’d also like to add that Furness and Cartmell peninsulas were historically parts of Lancashire Over The Sands. Just feels organic in every way. Civil Parishing arrangements would need to be enacted for Lancaster and Barrow and a further devolution of powers to parish bodies would be highly desirable. Hope this bid succeeds. It’s got a very strong case.

By Steve Webberley