After extensive debate among councillors and over thirteen thousand responses from local residents and organisations, the government has this afternoon announced which of the local proposals they have accepted for reform of local government in Cumbria, North Yorkshire, and Somerset.
I am very pleased to see that they have gone with the option I preferred and have been arguing for in Cumbria, which is two unitary councils for Cumbria, one covering the current areas of Copeland, Allerdale and Carlisle, the other the current areas of Eden, South Lakeland, and Barrow & Furness.
This was the preferred option supported by Copeland council and Allerdale council. There were a total of four options for reform involving a change to a unitary model put forward by local councils - and it is perhaps worth pointing out that all four of the councils involved - Cumbria County Council and all six districts - supported one of those four options for unitary local government.
The Secretary of State has asked the existing councils and their partners to work collaboratively and constructively together to drive forward the process of establishing unitary councils.
Local Government Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:
"I have always been clear that any restructuring of local government must be locally-led and will not involve top-down solutions from government.
Residents, businesses and service providers have had their say on what will work best for their area and now councils in these three areas can start planning for the next step.
Where there is local support, changing the structure of local government can offer better value for money and improved services for residents."
This follows an announcement by the Prime Minister last week whereby he set out his vision to level up and unite the whole of the United Kingdom. In a speech, he set out the government’s role to:
- empower strong local leaders by taking a more flexible approach to devolution, with new ‘County Deals’
- focus on growing the private sector by creating the conditions for long-term growth and productivity;
- invest in infrastructure and connectivity;
- ensure that people have access to good public services, and the skills and training needed to get good jobs; and
- improve the quality of life in communities through cutting crime and regenerating towns and high streets
Moving forward, Parliamentary approval will be sought to implement these locally led plans for the area. At the turn of the year, a draft structural changes Order will be laid in Parliament. This will include plans for the necessary transitional arrangements, including elections in May 2022 for the future unitary councils.