The county would be divided into two unitary councils, East Cumbria and West Cumbria, under local government secretary Robert Jenrick’s plans.
Currently, Cumbria runs under a two-tier system of county and district councils. Under the new proposal, the area under the jurisdiction of Allerdale Borough, Carlisle City and Copeland Borough councils will become West Cumbria. East Cumbria will be made up of the area covered by Barrow Borough, Eden District and South Lakeland District councils.
Parliament still needs to approve the council restructuring before it can go into effect. Jenrick said he will bring a structural change order before Parliament at the turn of the year, which would have information on how to transition from the county’s current council system to the new one. That includes how to handle elections in May 2022.
Jenrick told Parliament that he hopes for unitary councils to assume all of their duties on 1 April 2023. That would be the same day the earlier councils would be abolished.
The leader of the Carlisle City Council, Cllr John Mallinson, expressed his approval of Jenrick’s decision.
“Two unitary councils is the optimum balance between local government being close to the communities it serves, but also having the resources and influence to drive positive change,” he said.
Cllr Virginia Taylor, leader of Eden District Council, echoed his sentiments.
“I look forward to collaborating with government, all council colleagues, and other partners to affect efficient transitions to the two new authorities,” she said. “Together with all partners we will improve existing services while developing new ones – and retain and deliver local services locally.”
Both Mallinson and Taylor stressed that services and support would continue as usual from the councils as the transition begins.
The initial East and West Cumbria proposal was brought forward by Allerdale and Copeland councils for Jenrick’s approval. Other plans for possible unitary council configurations included making a North and a South Cumbria council and making a single Cumbria County council.
Cumbria is not the only county to have its council system up for restructuring. Jenrick also shared plans to bring a unitary council system to the councils in North Yorkshire and Somerset.