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Local Government Reorganisation - letters of support

We have received a number of letters of support for our proposals for Local Government Reorganisation in Cumbria:

Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland

I am writing in support of your proposals for local government reform in Cumbria.

It is more important than ever that we have a consensus about moving forward. It is clear that local government in Cumbria is not fit for purpose. There is a lack of clarity of responsibility, economic waste through unnecessary duplication, over governance and a lack of cohesion to name only a few of the factors that have now created a situation that is unwieldy and requires reform. Our local authorities are filled with great people who hold exceptional talents, but the present structure is holding us back.

West Cumbria is proud of its industrial record, centuries of mining, manufacturing, and latterly, nuclear expertise. Deeply ingrained and symbolic societal ties, the infrastructure and services that we all share, and indeed my constituency which includes the Copeland and Allerdale districts. We call ourselves West Cumbrian due to our shared industrial and cultural heritage. It is, therefore, crucial that whatever comes next can appreciate such a tightly-knit social fabric.

In opting for a two-unitary model this county could do just that, whilst capitalising on our heritage and providing a rich business offering.

Importantly, we should not seek reform just for the sake of it. Any new structure must deliver for the residents of Cumbria and recognise the diversity between our communities. Key factors such as the transport corridors in the East and West of the County, and how they bind our coastal and rural settlements together, or, the significance of our nuclear sector and having a local authority which is entirely supportive can not be understated.

Integration would result in greater influence for our county. In the longer term, a two-unitary model will be a pathway for a directly elected Mayor. In the North East, the benefit of such a position has been laid bare, broader strategic thinking has resulted in significant sums of inward investment.

What this county needs is joined-up thinking, a clear structure that allows for transparency, efficiency, and accountability whilst respecting the relationships between our communities. In my view, your proposals do just that.

Mark Jenkinson, MP for Workington

Local government reform is long overdue in Cumbria, and we have had many false starts.

Residents are overwhelmingly supportive of change that streamlines public services, reduces the financial burden on them, and gives them clearer local representation. Businesses also find the current model cumbersome, and welcome the integration.

A two unitary authority model provides the right balance of population size and economies of scale – taking into account the practicalities of the Cumbrian economy and geography. Cumbria is too large for a single authority to be effective, but the population is too small for three authorities to be efficient.

This model also allows us to go on to form a mayoral combined authority, with a mayor that is free to deal with the countywide strategic planning and leadership required to unlock Cumbria’s potential, and lacking for so long.

I look forward to a new local government model in Cumbria, one that delivers excellent public services for my constituents, while doing so efficiently and giving them a strong, local democratic voice.

Chris Nattress, Principal of Lakes College

In response to your request regarding local government re-organisation in Cumbria, herewith a brief summary of Lakes College perspective from me as Principal.

As an apolitical organisation, our perspective is shared from a practical and operation viewpoint, rather than a political one. As a college we consider West Cumbria as our primary service area, and have very long established, positive, productive relations with both Copeland and Allerdale authorities and the many communities and businesses operating within.

In broad terms a move towards greater simplification and reduction of duplication, single contact points, cost and administrative reduction, efficiency of operation, elevated response times and economy of scale and effort are to be welcomed, and any local government re-organisation that moves towards these aims has our support. As noted above, we very happily serve both Copeland and Allerdale across a broad range of individual resident, partnership, community group and business perspectives and can see clear value in both districts combining into one in a unitary model, rather than being split or separate. We can see how this model of combining Copeland and Allerdale would simplify many aspects of our operations regarding skills, education and training and provide clarity, consistency and a more efficient use of resource in comparison to working with two separate authorities.

Michael Pemberton, Chief Executive of BEC

BEC is pleased to offer its full and unequivocal support for Local Government Reform here in Cumbria.

As a local company focused upon inward investment, property regeneration and estates management in West Cumbria we have strived to bring projects forward at a time when they are needed more than ever. Our schemes aim to attract interest from private sector investors who share our combined ambition of a sustainable and prosperous future. The company benefits from very visible and tangible support from Copeland and Allerdale Borough Councils.

Copeland and Allerdale work hard to maximise opportunities and services for the communities they serve but it is felt that the current restrictive and even central centric local government model of Cumbria County Council is both harmful to future prosperity and limits the ability to level up our communities. This current model is outdated, fails to serve communities well, and marginalises investment opportunities and stilts growth and inward investment.

The opportunity to create two unitary authorities spearhead by an elected mayor will ensure robust service delivery and democratic representation that delivers economic benefit and support for all residents and communities. It will change the way towns such as Whitehaven, Workington, Cleator Moor and Maryport are planned, it will support the local rural and farming agenda at a time of great uncertainty, and will place a sharper focus on sustainable local economic development. It will allow local people to influence and make decisions on local business development, infrastructure provision, job creation and economic competiveness.

Local people know the area better than anybody and it is vital they are given the platform and opportunity to build back better.

BEC is grateful for being given the opportunity to unequivocal support the creation of two unitary authorities and we are confident that this model will support and empower our local communities to be the very they can be. It is of great importance that as we emerge from the current pandemic with a positive future. We see local government reform as essential to the delivery of an exciting future for Cumbria, its residents and visitors.

Steve Nicholson, on behalf of the Prospect union

Prospect Union fully support the proposal from Copeland and Allerdale that they remain together in the forthcoming local government reform.

As the largest Union at Sellafield, with over 5,000 members, Prospect work closely with both Copeland and Allerdale on issues relating to Nuclear, both historic and future development in the Nuclear Industry.

The West Cumbrian Community relies on the economic benefit that Nuclear brings to the area and its extremely vital that we have both councils working together for the greater good of the people they represent.

Copeland and Allerdale ‘Must’ be allowed to continue its successful working in partnership position, as this reform is critical for the economic future of West Cumbria and to keep Sellafield the Centre of Nuclear Excellence in the UK.

Paul Howarth, Chief Executive of National Nuclear Laboratory

We know that the Government is considering reform of local government across the UK and is holding devolution talks with a number of areas, including Cumbria, and that as a result leaders of local authorities across Cumbria have written to the Secretary of State to initiate Local Government Reorganisation in the county. We also understand that an invitation to submit proposals was received by every Council in Cumbria, from the Secretary of State, in October and we know that options are now actively being considered for reform of the local government landscape in Cumbria.

We recognise that there are many issues to consider – and we would not claim to be experts in every aspect of this decision making process – but , as a business which has the bulk of its people and work in West Cumbria, we wanted to share our views.

Our overriding concern is for the overall long-term economic prosperity of Cumbria, and we recognise that some form of devolution deal for Cumbria offers a clear pathway towards improvement. We understand that in order for this to happen, a new structure needs to be created in local government to create an authority that is large enough to receive significant devolved powers and funding, and that this essentially means replacing the current county council / six districts model with a unitary model.

We know that different variants of a new model are being considered, and we wanted to share our experience that we see benefit in working together with Copeland and Allerdale under the auspices of a single authority, given that there is a massive connection and interdependency between the two districts.

We are one of a number of companies with operations in both districts, and it’s clear to us that these two districts form a distinct economic “ecosystem” of West Cumbria, with many facets, not least of which is the colossal importance of the nuclear / clean energy sector to both. To break up this West Cumbrian ecosystem across two unitary authorities would – we believe - be a detrimental step.