Consultation starts on Unitary local government in Cumbria

Long awaited consultation starts on Local Government reorganisation in Cumbria (and two other areas of the UK. 

Views sought on all four options put forward by local councils.

The government has announced today a consultation on the options for Local Government Reorganisation put forward by councils in Cumbria (and two other areas of England)

All four options put forward for Cumbria by one or more of the seven principal councils in the county are included in the consultation, which is open until 11.45pm on 18th April.

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.

"Now that councils in Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset have submitted their proposals, I am pleased residents, businesses and service providers will have the opportunity to have their say on what will work best for their area.

"Where there is local support, changing the structure of local government can offer better value for money and improved services for residents.

Residents, councils, Local Enterprise Partnerships, public service providers, businesses and voluntary organisations will now have the opportunity to have their say on which proposal, if any, they see as the best fit for their area."

The four options put forward are as follows:

Allerdale and Copeland councils – jointly submitted a proposal for two unitary councils: 

  • 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.

(The above is the proposal which I will be strongly supporting)

Barrow and South Lakeland councils - jointly submitted a proposal for two unitary councils: 

  • 'The Bay' comprising the 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.

(The proposed "North Cumbria in this option is, of course, tantamount to recreating the historic county of Cumberland so I'm surprised they didn't call it that. That part of the option has quite a bit going for it, including alignment with local NHS stuctures which would make integrated Health and Social care policy much easier. 

Unfortunately their "The Bay" proposal rips Lancashire's county town and its' hinterland out of that county with no apparent thought to what happens to the rest of Lancashire and I do not see how you can proceed with this proposal without a lot more work on the knock-on implications for Lancashire.)

Carlisle and Eden  – jointly submitted a proposal for 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 fatal problem with this proposal is that it puts two areas with utterly incompatible cultures, aspirations  and attitudes - Copeland and South Lakeland - into the same unitary authority. There is already tension between these areas which don't really belong in the same county. Putting them in the same planning authority would be a recipe for all-out war unless the new council agreed to a massive degree of devolution to local areas and mechanisms to ensure local decisions are respected.)

Cumbria County Council submitted a proposal for a single unitary council for the area of Cumbria County.

(See my comments on the Carlisle and Eden proposal immediately above, And the current county of Cumbria is too geographically huge and disparate to be a good fit as a unitary authority. It could only work if you had a directly-elected Mayor and a huge degree of devolution to local committees.)

Those are the proposals, and what I think: what do you think?

You can express your views at: Cumbria Unitarisation - Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Citizen Space - Citizen Space


Gary Bullivant said…
Allerdale Borough Council and Copeland Borough Council believe that current two-tier system of local government should be replaced with a new model; of two unitary authorities, overseen by a combined authority with a Directly Elected Mayor. So do Eden and Carlisle.

Putting aside the north south east west divide there doesn't seem to be much emphasis on the combined authority throughout the debate as yet. I suspect I won't be alone in wondering why that is and how unitary with combined is different from districts with county. Yhere is also, of course, the existence of another planning Authority in the area, called the LDNPA.

Jim said…
I really dont like the idea of joining Copeland and Allerdale. One of the best things ever was when I no longer was stuck with Copeland council. I still work in Copeland and of course have a great interest in what happens in copeland as most of my family live there, but Allerdale council (though a million miles from perfect) are much better than copeland are.

The Carlisle and Eden plan does sound a better option. Get rid of Cumbria County Council and go with Carlisle and Edens, 2 unitary coucils.

I agree that Cumbria is geographically huge, so having a single council is too much. That is one fatal flaw in demand 2 that is why yours truely insisted on the bit in brackets, seems like an age ago now.

2 The foundation of our democracy shall be the counties (or other local units as may be defined), which shall become constitutional bodies exercising under the control of their peoples all powers of legislation, taxation and administration not specifically granted by the people to the national government.
Anonymous said…
In a democracy - put it to a vote
Jim said…
That's the best way. A local referendum.
Chris Whiteside said…
The combined authority would mostly be to back up the metro mayor on matters which would largely be devolved from central government or are done by the LEP at the moment. And it would consist of the Metro Mayor, the PCC if that position is kept separate from the Mayor, and the leadership of the two unitary councils.

Most of what is currently done by the Districts and CCC would be done by the two unitary councils.

Jim, I think Copeland is now a lot better run than it was while you lived here. And I would die in a ditch rather than have the people in South Lakes who have been campaigning flat out to shut down the economy of West Cumbria in general and the industry you are employed in in particular in the same planning authority.

They have done enough damage while they were in the same county council: I'm concerned that they could do a lot more under the Eden/Carlisle plan.
Anonymous said…
"Copeland is now a lot better run than it was while you lived here".
Copeland BC (Officers and Councillors) have always been xxxxing useless, that hasn't changed under Mickie Star. That isn't just my opinion, Grant Thornton the Auditor isn't impressed by Copeland BC either.

Nobody wants to join with Copeland BC.
Chris Whiteside said…
I'm not going to get into personal criticism of people who can't answer back.

You are correct that auditors have been producing reports into Copeland Council which give cause for concern for a long time, though the ones they wer writing ten years ago were even worse than the recent ones.

Ten years ago the Audit commission was publishing figures on which you could objectively say that CBC under Labour control was one of the three worst councils in England. That sort of thing takes years to turn round.

However, I think that two unitary authorities on either model could and should be better run than some of the present districts.

And in my view, the consideration that it is not in the interests of either Copeland residents, or of employees of Cumbria's nuclear industry, for Copeland to be in the same planning authority as certain pressure groups in South Lakeland and those South Lakes councillors sympathetic to them, is a more powerful one than any issues I might have with Copeland officers.

Incidentally if I were an environmentally-concerned resident of Kendal, I might take the same view for opposite reasons. I would not want councillors elected in West Cumbria on the planning committee deciding on planning applications for my town because they would be likely to have a very different view of planning to what I wanted.

The fact that my representatives might be able to impose decisions in Whitehaven that residents of that town didn't like would not compensate me for the risk of having their representatives impose on my town decisions that I and my community didn't like.

The same problem would apply all over if a unitary council is too big - as I think a unitary Cumbria would be. It might be bearable in a well drawn two unitary model but I think it would be worse under the North-South model put forward by Carlisle and Eden than the East West model but forward by Copeland and Allerdale.

By the way the majority of Allerdale Borough councillors DO want to be in a new West Cumbria authority including the present area of Copeland and so voted. But it would be a new authority.

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