Cumbria

Cumbria council merger proposals sent to government

Cumbria County Council, Botchergate Image copyright Google
Image caption The move would see Cumbria County Council scrapped along with the six district councils

A proposal to scrap a "dysfunctional" local government system is to be referred to government, despite opposition from councils.

A unitary authority could replace Cumbria County Council and the six district councils.

County Council cabinet members have agreed to submit an "expression of interest" to government.

Council leader Stewart Young said there was "a substantial amount of money to be saved by rationalising" the system.

"It isn't just about money but about how difficult it is to do business on a daily basis when you're dealing with seven local authorities who invariably don't agree on everything," he said.

Many believed the current set-up was "dysfunctional", he added.

'Bit more altruistic'

Cabinet member David Southward said borough and district councils opposed the idea because they "have something to lose".

"I think the challenge is to encourage people to be a bit more altruistic and not to think of their own personal gain and position," he said.

Allerdale, Carlisle, Copeland, Barrow, Eden and South Lakeland councils could be scrapped, along with the county council itself.

Options include keeping the current system, having a single unitary authority covering the entire county or creating two larger authorities based on either a north-south or east-west split.

Another suggestion is to create two bodies covering the same areas as the Morecambe Bay and North Cumbria clinical commissioning groups.

It is estimated that savings of £28.3m a year could be made with one unitary authority, or £16.8m with two.

A meeting of cabinet members heard streamlining the county's local government was "inevitable", despite strong opposition from the six district councils.

The government has temporarily relaxed the rules so the proposal no longer requires their unanimous backing, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

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