Consultations are underway on four competing bids to reorganise local government in Cumbria and parts of Lancashire, to improve service delivery and simplify boundaries between councils and places.
The secretary of state within Whitehall is leading the consultation process, seeking feedback from the public on four separate bids:
- Cumbria County Council proposes a single unitary council covering the county area of Cumbria and known as ‘One Cumbria’
- Allerdale and Copeland councils jointly propose the formation of two new unitary authorities: West Cumbria – comprising the area covered by Allerdale Borough, Carlisle City and Copeland Borough councils – and East Cumbria, comprising the area covered by Barrow Borough, Eden District and South Lakeland District councils
- Barrow and South Lakeland councils propose the formation of two single-tier unitary authorities to cover The Bay – comprising the Morecambe Bay area covered by Barrow Borough, South Lakeland District and Lancaster City councils – and North Cumbria, comprising the area covered by Allerdale Borough, Carlisle City, Copeland Borough and Eden District councils.
- Carlisle and Eden councils jointly propose the creation of two unitary councils: North Cumbria –comprising the area covered by Allerdale Borough, Carlisle City and Eden District councils – and South Cumbria, comprising the area covered by Barrow Borough, Copeland Borough and South Lakeland District councils.
The public consultations on each proposal launched on 22 February and close on 19 April. As a result, the district and county council elections in Cumbria due to be held in May this year will be rescheduled to May 2022.
Cumbria County Council claims its proposal for a single unitary authority for the council would “make
services more direct and much easier to access in a single council wherever you are in Cumbria, simplifying and removing artificial boundaries between councils and places and ending the current confusion of who does what.”
It claims its model would deliver savings of £50m per year – significantly more than a two-unitary council model, which the county council says would cost more than £20m more.
Stewart Young, leader of Cumbria County Council, said: “Removing layers of unnecessary bureaucracy and streamlining seven councils down into a local model makes much more sense to our residents and to our communities.
“I can only hope that despite everything else that is going on at the moment, people try to make time to ensure their views and opinions are known, so that any final decision by the Government can be informed by what people want locally.”
Carlisle and Eden’s preferred option would improve local government and service delivery, while giving “greater value for money and providing stronger strategic and local leadership”, they said.
Leader of Carlisle City Council Cllr John Mallinson said: “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.”
The proposed model “strikes the right balance between local government being close to the communities it serves, while having the resources and influence required to drive positive change…and secure a sustainable 21st century rural economy for Eden and beyond,” added Cllr Virginia Taylor, leader of Eden Council.
Meanwhile, Barrow, Lancaster and South Lakeland councils are hoping their Bay area proposal is approved.
In a joint statement, the leaders of the three authorites said: “This is a crucially important decision that will shape the future for our communities. It is clear that the Government wishes to replace the existing two-tier system of county and district councils with a new unitary model where there is a single tier.
“If that is the case then we firmly believe The Bay unitary is the most ambitious, forward-thinking and rational plan for our areas, based on strong existing community and economic links and a credible geography.”