This would mean that instead of seven councils and hundreds of councillors, of which is one is top tier (the county council) and six are district tier (Allerdale, Barrow, Carlisle, Copeland, Eden and South Lakes,) you would have one or two "unitary" councils each of which carries out all the functions currently handled by both of the existing tiers.
A single unitary authority would not mean that the county council was taking over the responsibilities of the districts: it would mean that all seven existing councils would be scrapped and replaced with a different type of council.
Unitary authorities which carry out all the functions of both tiers existed from 1889 to 1974 in England and Wales under the name "County Boroughs." they were scrapped in the 1974 local government reorganisation but made a comeback in some parts of the UK in the 1990's
The unitary model of local government presents three major advantages over a two-tier system.
It has been estimated that going down from seven councils to one would save about £28 million a year or down to two about £17 million a year.
The county council is responsible for on-street parking and the districts for off-street parking: the districts for waste collection and the county for waste disposal. The districts' responsibility for planning includes power to put conditions and impose charges on developers which are essential to the County council's responsibilities to provide roads and education.
Different policies and agendas at these two levels can be a major cause of dysfunctional service and we have had more than one instance of councils threatening to take each other to court or take enforcement action against each other.
I gather that Cumbria County Council's cabinet agreed at Thursday's county council county cabinet meeting to make a formal expression of interest to the government putting forward a number of options for unitary local government, including both the single council model and several two-council models.
I also gather that the view was even expressed at the meeting that a change along these lines is "inevitable," though I am reminded of the expression "there's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip."
It will be interesting to see what happens. I hope a good proposal can come forward.