Council leaders confirm backing for Morecambe Bay-wide local authority
The leaders of three neighbouring councils have written to Government to reaffirm their commitment to proposals for a new Bay unitary authority.
Both Lancaster City Council and South Lakeland District Council have elected new leaders following recent annual meetings, with Coun Caroline Jackson and Coun Jonathan Brook becoming leaders at Lancaster and South Lakeland respectively.
Despite the changes in leadership all three administrations continue to back the Bay unitary bid, with leaders of Barrow Borough Council, Lancaster City Council and South Lakeland District Council saying a Bay unitary alongside a new north Cumbria authority covering Allerdale, Carlisle, Copeland and Eden is the best solution for local communities.
In a joint letter sent on Tuesday to Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Coun Jackson, Coun Brook and Barrow Borough Council leader Coun Ann Thomson wrote: “The Bay has strong cross party support in each of our local authorities and as the new team of leaders we are working together to develop plans to implement changes, subject to your decision on local government re-organisation. We believe that The Bay and North Cumbria proposal is the option that best meets your criteria.
“Our proposal is an opportunity to positively transform the area at a time when our communities and economies are rebuilding from the pandemic. Both The Bay and proposed North Cumbria unitary will improve local government and service delivery, provide stronger leadership and more sustainable structures.
“Our proposals deliver comparable benefits to reorganisation to a county unitary in the short term but crucially, are more resilient in the longer term. Our priority, like yours, is to deliver public value through a sustainable and resilient local council that delivers priority services and empowers communities.
"Our proposal is a bold vision for local government reform. There’s a public service imperative to focus on what public services need to do to respond to today’s society and needs.
"Our proposals are about reform as much as reorganisation, focussing on the major agendas of community power, community wealth, health and well-being and the climate emergency.’’
Communities across the Morecambe Bay area have already sent a strong signal to Government on its proposals for local government reorganisation, with a Government minister confirming a significant number of supportive responses on the Bay proposal during the Government’s recent consultation, which closed in April.
Luke Hall MP, Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, told a recent House of Commons debate on the Bay unitary proposal that “…well over four fifths of email responses alone are about the Bay proposal, and nearly two thirds of the total emails for Cumbria are from the “Back the Bay” campaign.’’
The confirmation of strong backing for the Bay proposal in the Government’s own consultation mirrors similar support during the councils’ own surveys and consultation events late last year.
The leaders’ letter to Robert Jenrick continues: “The Bay has strong local support. It is the only proposal on the table that has very clear local support from the public.
"Seventy per cent of the 3,000 residents who participated in our online consultation and 60 per cent of those who were asked in an independent poll by Survation, said they support our proposals, as did many stakeholders in the public sector, community organisations, town and parish councils, and local business.
“We trust that the strong evidence we have presented from our consultation, along with the evidence from the Government’s own consultation, will assure you that our proposals are the option which commands local support.’’
The recent Government consultation was open to businesses, community and voluntary sector organisations and members of the public.
Respondents were able to email or complete an online survey, indicating their views on four proposals put forward for local government reorganisation in Cumbria:
Barrow, South Lakeland and Lancaster 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.
Allerdale and Copeland 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.
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.
Cumbria County Council submitted a proposal for a single unitary council covering the county area of Cumbria County ‘One Cumbria’.
The joint proposal for a new Bay authority was developed in response to a letter from Government in October sent to councils in Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset inviting submissions on ‘locally-led proposals for unitary government’ in those areas.
Under The Bay plan, the district councils of Barrow, Lancaster and South Lakeland and county council in Cumbria would be replaced with a newly created, single tier ‘unitary’ local authority for the area.
The new authority would deliver the services currently provided by both the district and county councils such as waste and recycling collections, public realm, planning, highways and transport and adult and children’s social care.
Full council meetings of all three councils in December agreed the business case for a Bay unitary should be submitted to Government.