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Local Government Reorganisation information

The Government is actively driving a devolution agenda across the UK. To allow for powers and finance to be devolved from central Government to a local level, local authorities must exist that are large enough to receive them. The current two-tier system in Cumbria (of a county council with six districts each carrying out different services) does not offer this option.

Therefore, the Government has formally invited all seven Cumbrian authorities to submit their proposals for local government reform that would replace the current arrangements and create larger authorities in order to facilitate a future devolution deal. The Government has expressed a preference that local government reform will create a Directly Elected Mayor position for Cumbria.

Why are we proposing change?

  • The status quo cannot continue. It is not financially sustainable in the long-term, does not provide value for money, creates duplication, and is confusing for our residents.
  • A change is necessary to improve financial sustainability, remove duplication, increase collaboration between geographical areas and focus on integrated service delivery.
  • Without change, the Government’s levelling up and devolution agenda cannot take effect and Cumbria is in danger of being left behind.
  • The right platform and structure needs to be created to allow the area to prosper, unlock growth and to facilitate the levelling-up agenda through devolution.

What new model are we proposing?

Copeland Borough Council believes that current two-tier system of local government should be replaced with a new model; of two unitary authorities that carry out all the services in their respective areas, overseen by a combined authority with a Directly Elected Mayor. Copeland Council favours an east/west split in terms of the two-unitary structure; Copeland, Allerdale and Carlisle in a West Cumbria authority, and Eden, Barrow and South Lakeland in an East Cumbria authority. This model is supported by Allerdale Borough Council.

Why are we proposing a two-unitary model?

  • It will provide a strong, single voice for the area.
  • It will create a structure that is large enough to receive devolved powers, but small enough that important links with residents and businesses will be maintained.
  • It will provide leadership, local identity and accessibility; the leadership will be close to the people they represent
  • Copeland and Allerdale already have shared social and economic history, transport links and housing markets.

Our submission

Copeland Council's outline proposal was submitted to the Government on November 9.  A proposal mirroring this was also sent by Allerdale Borough Council.

A full business cases with evidence and analysis was sent by Copeland Borough Council and Allerdale Borough Council to the Government on December 8. The Officer Decision Record (Executive Function) can be found here.

In it, the councils outline how our proposals will meet our objectives of creating integration between areas and improving service delivery and outcomes for the community, while offering strong local leadership, accountability and representation. The model proposed would also offer a more simplified structure and remove duplication, while generating efficiencies.

The councils propose:

-  Cumbria should be restructured into two unitary authorities; Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland should form one unitary authority, and Barrow, Eden and South Lakeland the other. The unitary authorities would carry out all the services in their area, and replace the current two-tier system of a county council and six districts.

-  Above the two unitaries should be a combined authority (made up of the leadership of each unitary) and led by a Directly Elected Mayor for Cumbria.

The submissions have been made on behalf of the council’s respective Executive Committees.

In a joint statement, Councillor Mike Johnson, Deputy Leader of Allerdale, and Mike Starkie, Mayor of Copeland, said: “We have made a compelling case for change to the Government with the two-unitary model we propose and we'd like to thank everyone who responded to our consultation and provided support for our proposals.

“It would create organisations that are large enough to drive our ambitions for growth and excellent service delivery, while maintaining local identity and close links to our local communities.

“It is crucial that Copeland and Allerdale remain part of the same authority in any future model. Our local population, and our community and industry leaders, are equally unequivocal in this regard, and our case makes that explicitly clear.

“The Government is actively driving its devolution agenda, and the right platform and structure needs to be created in Cumbria to allow the area to prosper, unlock growth, and to facilitate the levelling up agenda in the near future.

“We believe our model is the option that will deliver the future we deserve.”

Letters of support

We received a number of letters of support from local stakeholders that were included in our business case submission.

Public consultation

The Government consulted on all four unitary authority proposals made by Cumbrian authorities in December. These were:

- Two unitary authorities – one for West Cumbria (made up of Copeland, Allerdale and Carlisle) and one for East Cumbria (made of Eden, Barrow and South Lakeland). This proposal was submitted by Copeland Borough Council and Allerdale Borough Council.

- Two unitary authorities – one for North Cumbria (made up of Carlisle, Eden and Allerdale) and one for South Cumbria (made up of Copeland, Barrow and South Lakeland). This proposal was submitted by Carlisle City Council and Eden District Council.

- The ‘Bay’ model of two unitary authorities – one for the Bay area (made up of Barrow, South Lakeland and Lancaster) and one for North Cumbria (made up of Copeland, Allerdale, Carlisle and Eden). This proposal was submitted by Barrow Borough Council and South Lakeland District Council.

- One unitary authority for the whole of Cumbria. This proposal was submitted by Cumbria County Council.

The consultation ended on April 19.

View our response to the consultation here.

Government announcement

On Wednesday, July 21, the Government announced that it had chosen to progress the model outlined in a joint submission between Copeland and Allerdale Borough Councils.  

The new model will be two unitary authorities; Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland form one authority, and Barrow, Eden and South Lakeland the other. The unitary authorities will carry out all the services in their area, and replace the current two-tier system of a county council and six districts.

The new model will deliver greater integration between areas, improve service delivery and outcomes for the community, while offering strong local leadership, accountability and representation. The model proposed would also offer a more simplified structure and remove duplication, while generating efficiencies.

All councils in Cumbria will now work together, with Government, to plan and enact the transitional arrangements.

A joint transition plan will be created ensuring that the focus remains on service delivery and improvement, whilst realising all of the benefits set out in the proposal to Government.

It is expected that the two new unitaries with be vested in April 2023.