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Local government reorganisation in Cumbria

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 beneath it) 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 setup 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.

On 22 February 2021, the government announced an eight-week consultation on the proposals. This consultation ended on 19 April 2021.

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 affect 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?

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. When the make-up of the two unitaries is decided Allerdale Borough Council's Executive has indicated that their preferred position was to form a new authority on the footprint of the existing Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland Councils.

Why are we proposing a two-unitary model?

We believe:

  • 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 full proposal and consultation response

We submitted our full proposal in December 2020.

On 22 February 2021, the government announced its consultation on the proposals it had received for reorganisation of local government in Cumbria. This consultation has now closed, however you can read our proposal below.

In our detailed submission, we outlined 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 also generating efficiencies.

Read the full proposal

We provided a full consultation response to the government. 

Consultation response from Allerdale Borough Council

Other proposals

There are three other proposals for local government reorganisation in Cumbria.

More details of these proposals can be found via links on the consultation website .

They are

  • 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). 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). Submitted by Barrow Borough Council and South Lakeland District Council. 
  • One unitary authority for the whole of Cumbria. Submitted by Cumbria County Council 

Documents in other formats

The consultation response document

1) Is the councils’ proposal likely to improve local government and service delivery across each area? Specifically, is it likely to improve council services, give greater value for money, generate savings, provide stronger strategic and local leadership, and create more sustainable structures?

Yes, the East and West proposal provides the right combination of change, to enable improvement, transformation and new ways of working, with stability to avoid disruption to residents. It establishes government structures with local leadership that can deliver services locally, maintain a strategic perspective and provide high quality sustainable services.

Key points

  • Improve services: Service delivery will be local, focused and aligned with the needs, assets and infrastructure of the communities of Cumbria. Services will still operate at scale but at a scale appropriate to the size, infrastructure and connectivity of the area. The proposal will replace the current patchwork of layers of government and locality teams that prevent efficient service delivery, designed around what the people of Cumbria want. Bringing services closer to communities in the East and West respectively will enable delivery to be more local, agile and responsive to their communities. By integrating and reflecting place, rather than all of Cumbria, services can be designed to be more efficient and more effective.
  • Give greater value for money: The proposal is focused on quality improvement and would establish local government structures that enable local, efficient and targeted services. Making savings by removing layers of government, inefficient structures and establishing authorities that are local and relevant will drive investment in modern, data-driven services that meet the needs and expectations of the people of Cumbria. The implementation costs of reorganisation (estimated between £17.6 and £23.8m) will be paid off within two years enabling further savings to be invested in service quality.
  • Generate savings: unitary government in East and West Cumbria would save over £19.1m per year. The exact savings made are subject to the ambition and decisions of the new unitaries but could go well beyond that, if they take transformation opportunities. This proposal would provide net savings of at least £70m over the first five years which represents a practical and achievable base case. There is also opportunity for more transformative change to increase efficiencies that can be reinvested in improving local services.
  • Provide stronger strategic and local leaders: The two unitary model is required to provide clarity to residents regarding the role of unitary and Combined Authorities. Unitary authorities need to be local to deliver services that address the needs and expectations of residents and they need local leadership. A mayoral Combined Authority will drive strategic leadership and enable collaboration on strategic issues. Clearly these roles cannot both be delivered effectively on the same footprint.
  • Create more sustainable structures: Running costs of East and West Cumbria unitaries will be at least 7% lower than current local government in Cumbria enabling investment in services that can sustainably support the population. Cumbria will also benefit from strong devolved leadership as a voice for Cumbria to attract investment strengthening the economy and growing the tax income of local government. This investment can be evenly targeted across Cumbria through constructive competition between the authorities, rather than some areas consistently missing out on investment opportunities.

2) Where it is proposed that services will be delivered on a different geographic footprint to currently, or through some form of joint arrangements is this likely to improve those services? Such services may for example be children’s services, waste collection and disposal, adult health and social care, planning, and transport.

East and West unitaries and a Cumbria Combined Authority enable form to follow function regarding services. Two authorities closely aligned with communities will enable local, integrated service delivery that works for those communities which will improve understanding, responsiveness and effectiveness in those services. The Combined Authority operating across Cumbria will enable a joined up approach to strategic issues such as skills and productivity, strategic planning and strategic transport.

Local services that will be improved through local knowledge, understanding and planning

  • Highways: Local and responsive services will ensure that roads are maintained and fit for purpose, a key concern for local people. Under the current system highways are already managed under structures that align with an East and West footprint (Copeland and Allerdale and Barrow and South Lakeland). There is also a structure in the north of Cumbria that can be integrated into the two unitary model representing a consolidation of service delivery.
  • Waste services: Rubbish collection and recycling require local knowledge to develop more efficient routes and adapt to local events and requirements. Two unitaries enables scale and efficiency through the integration of District services retaining the local knowledge of District teams. Waste services could be integrated under a Joint Waste Authority for management overseeing the waste disposal facilities located in the East and West. This strategic oversight will enable waste services to deliver changes to help combat climate change. Delivery units can use local knowledge and data to consolidate, integrate and improve the efficiency of routes and operations.
  • Adult social care: As two unitaries will be closer to the communities, culture, demographics and geography of their population they will be better able to stimulate community support and to provide services that promote resilience and independence for older adults. This will reduce some pressure on adult social care as well as promoting the wellbeing and quality of life of residents. In line with the place-based principles of Integrated Care Systems two unitaries will also provide more targeted commissioning arrangements for vulnerable adults and people with learning disabilities enabling services tailored to local needs and facilities.
  • Children’s services: children’s services will be integrated with many of the District services that enable safe, healthy childhoods, such as housing, public health and leisure. This approach enables planning to be more effective and services to work in harmony provided integration is sufficiently local. The proposal will also enable collaborative working and remove disruptive transition points between services and organisations in children’s lives. Improvement has been slow in children’s services and will be put further at risk due to financial pressures on councils which will put services and children at risk. A two unitary model will provide an opportunity to reset the leadership and culture of the services and provide a more sustainable financial footing.
  • Children’s safeguarding: The Cumbria Local Safeguarding Children Board operate through three locality groups and the East & West model maintains two (Allerdale and Copeland and Barrow and South Lakeland) within single unitaries. The group that covers Carlisle and Eden would be split but a two unitary structure is likely to negate the need for locality structures as unitaries will be an appropriate size to manage services. Looked after children: If managed through a two unitary model caseloads for both unitaries would be, on average, in the middle third of authorities and spread over a smaller area, enabling more focused care and support.

Strategic services that require a pan-Cumbria approach and delivery model through a Combined Authority

  • Strategic transport planning including bus franchising and network subsidy under a Passenger Transport Executive to better meet transport needs across the region and connect local travel infrastructure with tourism planning
  • Integration of police and fire services, emergency planning and the Local Resilience Forum to enable integrated operations
  • Strategic spatial planning to coordinate and inform local plans  Strategic approach to education and skills including a regional productivity and skills plan
  • Relationship with the LEP to reset the approach and provide a strategic approach that works for both authorities. This will include focus on a sustainable agricultural sector and coordination to become a trailblazer for climate change in the UK.

3) Is the councils’ proposal also likely to impact local public services delivered by others, such as police, fire and rescue, and health services?

Police, fire and rescue Will not change boundaries: Two unitaries based on East Cumbria and West Cumbria would not impact on the boundaries of the police, fire and rescue services which operate across Cumbria. Ambulance services are administered across the North West so would also not be affected.

etains strategic direction through Combined Authority: Police, fire, rescue, emergency planning and the Local Resilience Forum will operate across the Cumbria Combined Authority enabling integrated strategic planning.

Consolidating services and intelligence: Other public services require local authorities to have detailed knowledge and intelligence regarding their communities e.g. safeguarding. Many current local authority services are structured through three locality teams or the six Districts and this model consolidates these services into two local authority counterparts for data sharing and joint working.

Healthcare Driving local place-based working: The current healthcare geography of Cumbria does not align with District boundaries and is currently split between the North Cumbria Health and Care System and the Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System. Integrated Care Systems will rely on place based partnerships to deliver effectively, these require local knowledge and understanding which will be delivered through East and West unitary authorities that reflect the communities and dynamics of local places.

4) Do you support the proposal from the Councils?

This model is the Council’s preferred option for Local Government Reorganisation in Cumbria. We recognise that Local Government Reorganisation in Cumbria is essential but it must be undertaken in a form that presents the residents of the county with the greatest benefits. We believe that this proposal is the best way forward for Cumbria because:

  • It provides the right level of change and transformation leading to improved services for residents
  • It creates local authorities to achieve an appropriate scale for service delivery but remains embedded in the local economy
  • It presents an opportunity to unlock further investment and service improvements through the creation of a Combined Mayoral Authority
  • It represents the most credible geography for the county and builds on existing cultural and economic areas

5) Do the unitary councils proposed by the councils represent a credible geography?

Yes, establishing unitary local government in East and West Cumbria reflects the social, cultural and economic geography of the area. The authorities will be naturally supported by transport infrastructure connecting communities respectively to the east and west of the Lake District National Park. Having populations below 300,000 will enable more local service delivery despite the size, rurality and low population density of the area and they will still be in the top half of English unitaries by population size.

Key points

  • Reflects cultural geography: West Cumbria is strongly interlinked through sports leagues and the manufacturing, industrial and mining history of the region. There are strong links between towns such as Whitehaven and Workington on the west coast regarding education, nightlife and retail. East Cumbria culture is grounded in agriculture and the strong tourism industry as well as towns like Kendal that operate as hubs across the region.
  • Supported by transport routes: transport infrastructure connects communities down the east and the west of Cumbria. East Cumbria is connected by the A590, M6 and A6 and local train lines and a strong travel to work zone between Barrow-in-Furness and South Lakeland. West Cumbria is linked by the Cumbria Coast Line, A595 and the A66 and there is a strong commuter relationship between Allerdale and Copeland and between the north of Allerdale and Carlisle
  • Powered by economic geographies: both authorities will have a GVA over £5.6bn, business rates are evenly balanced between the two and both have a healthy economic sector mix
  • The right population size for our geography: Cumbria has fewer than one person per hectare and transport infrastructure largely operates as a doughnut around the Lake District National Park and the Scafell Massif. While East Cumbria will have a population of 225k this is substantial in the context of delivering services effectively and efficiently over such a large rural area.

1) Is the councils’ proposal likely to improve local government and service delivery across each area? Specifically, is it likely to improve council services, give greater value for money, generate savings, provide stronger strategic and local leadership, and create more sustainable structures?

The challenges presented by this proposal will impact on services across two counties. The proposal does not consistently identify, at this moment in time, how the model will secure service improvement or deliver the proposed savings. The complexities involved in the implementation of the Bay proposal arise from the requirement to bring together services from across Cumbria and Lancashire. These challenges have the potential to cause significant delay in the Local Government Reorganisation process and potentially incur additional costs relating to service delivery. This complexity is reflected in the implementation costs for the proposal. The costs relating to the establishment of the Bay authority alone is more than the entire proposal for the East West model. This has clear implications for the model with regards to creating greater value for money within a reasonable implementation timescale. Inevitably, this will have an impact on improvements within the overall service delivery. Whilst the proposed authorities would create councils of a notable size, it is likely that the Cumbria element of the proposal will face many of the same challenges presented to the existing, upper tier authority, Cumbria County Council. Issues relating to the provision of services across large distances would still be a major consideration. The impact of this may result in services that are not responsive or representative of the local communities they are intended to serve. Services are also likely to be provided further from the residents they are intended to benefit when compared to the East West model. This increased scale of council could also have implications for local leadership in that, once more, the geographical size has the potential to weaken democratic representation when compared to the East West model.

2) Where it is proposed that services will be delivered on a different geographic footprint to currently, or through some form of joint arrangements is this likely to improve those services? Such services may for example be children’s services, waste collection and disposal, adult health and social care, planning, and transport.

The potential impact the Bay proposal could have on the geographic footprint of service delivery across Cumbria and Lancashire could be significant. Separating Lancaster from Lancashire has the potential to create a myriad of difficulties in the model’s implementation. This in turn may impact on service delivery and the speed at which services can be realigned and improved. High implementation costs could also impact on potential service improvement, especially in the short to medium term. This is an unfavourable aspect of the proposal when compared to the Council’s preferred East West model Whilst none of the proposed models align perfectly with the Integrated Care Systems, the Bay model presents the closest overall alignment. This could have a positive result on population health and wellbeing, however, it will still require place based partnerships to mitigate misalignments and therefore, doesn’t have significant benefits in comparison to other proposals for Cumbria. It is also unclear how this model will implement devolved government and manage strategic services, such as transport, at the proposed scale and geographical coverage. The challenge of operating services across two existing county areas could impact on the potential for a meaningful Combined Mayoral Authority. This is an unfavourable element of the proposal when considered directly with the East West model.

3) Is the councils’ proposal also likely to impact local public services delivered by others, such as police, fire and rescue, and health services?

The impact of this proposal on services such as police and fire and rescue could be far reaching. Blue light services in Cumbria and Lancashire would need to be extensively remodelled to unpick existing geographical boundaries for delivery. This is a complicated and seemingly, not well supported element of the Bay proposal. It is likely to result in considerable implications for service delivery and costs associated with the proposal. Successful implementation would, therefore, require prolonged time, effort and resources that are not matched by service improvements when compared to other proposals. As previously stated, this model does provide the closest alignment with ICS boundaries when compared to other proposals. This could potentially have some longer terms benefits for population health and well being but it would still require placed based partnerships to realise the benefits. These benefits, may also therefore, be realised utilising the East West model for example. None of the proposals submitted to Government align perfectly with the ICS boundaries.

4) Do you support the proposal from the Councils

The Bay model is an aspirational proposal that offers a strong vision for the Bay area but is less comprehensive on the benefits for the rest of Cumbria. At this moment in time, the proposal does not adequately address the structural challenges regarding police and fire boundaries, how it will provide a viable footing for devolution and the difficult challenge of separating Lancaster from Lancashire. The implementation of the proposal would therefore, present a number of complex issues. This complexity will undoubtedly elongate the overall implementation process. So, whilst the proposal is sympathetic to existing cultural, geographical and functioning economic areas such as West Cumbria, it does not compare favourably to the East West model due to the large implementation costs and the length and value of potential service transformation.

5) Do the unitary councils proposed by the councils represent a credible geography?

The Bay proposal is able to demonstrate public and political support from within the bay area but currently includes little public support and little analysis of the northern districts as a credible geography. The scale of the authorities this model will create has the potential to encounter geographical delivery issues. Whilst services would be offered closer to residents than many existing services, the authorities under this proposal would face many of the same issues that are faced by Cumbria County Council, the current upper tier authority. The proposal goes some way to recreating historical cultural and geographical boundaries that align to an established sense of place. It maintains the critical connection between Allerdale and Copeland Council areas, however, the scale of the proposed authorities are larger than the East West proposal and therefore potentially do not capitalise on the opportunity to create strong democratic representation in services embedded within local communities.

1) Is the councils’ proposal likely to improve local government and service delivery across each area? Specifically, is it likely to improve council services, give greater value for money, generate savings, provide stronger strategic and local leadership, and create more sustainable structures?

Whilst this model may appear attractively simple to implement, it offers limited potential for transformation and service improvement due to the continuity aspects of the proposal. The size and scale of the county makes it very difficult to provide effective services at a countywide geography. The reduced opportunity for truly transformational change may ultimately have an impact on the model’s ability to deliver the forecast level of savings. The removal of district level authorities and the creation of a single countywide unitary will result in services that will be less local and responsive than existing services. Cumbria covers a huge geographical area and services operated on this scale risk losing the all important connection with residents. This proposal could also limit the potential for a Combined Mayoral Authority and the opportunities for further devolving powers to the area. This may have an impact on the future of key strategic services and the ability to secure additional investment into the county. A single authority for the whole county geography may provide an opportunity to develop a more streamlined strategic view for the whole of the county but this approach often fails to recognise the various nuances at play in Cumbria. The county often has competing and conflicting interests which can be difficult to blend into a universally supported position. For example, the nuclear industry is hugely important for West Cumbria but is not universally supported across the rest of the county.

2) Where it is proposed that services will be delivered on a different geographic footprint to currently, or through some form of joint arrangements is this likely to improve those services? Such services may for example be children’s services, waste collection and disposal, adult health and social care, planning, and transport.

Under this proposal the majority of services move from a district level to a countywide geographical footprint. We believe that this could have a negative impact on service provision across Cumbria. Services delivered at a countywide level have been notoriously difficult to manage and implement with services often being disaggregated to provide a greater local input. Cumbria County Council have had limited success in service improvement over a long period of time. The East and West proposal, for example, is positioned as a balance between some stability (existing county boundaries) and change (two unitaries) to achieve local delivery at appropriate scale. There is no plan for mayoral devolution as part of this proposal. This could result in the lack of a clear and differentiated role for a Combined Authority, affecting the ability of the area to attract additional investment into the area.

3) Is the councils’ proposal also likely to impact local public services delivered by others, such as police, fire and rescue, and health services?

his proposal would have minimum impact on public services delivered by other organisations due to the existing geographical scope of services such as police and fire and rescue services. This is also true however for other models, such as the East West model, in which Police and fire and rescue services would continue to be delivered on a countywide basis and services such as the ambulance service would continue to be delivered by the north west ambulance service. This model would not align with the health authority but none of the proposals submitted achieve perfect alignment.

4) Do you support the proposal from the Councils?

We are not supportive of a proposal to create a single unitary authority for the whole of Cumbria. This model represents a race to the bottom to save money and will not bring about the improvements in services that our residents require. A single, countywide, authority would offer a remote form of local governance for many residents given the scale and size of the county. Cumbria is a large and complex county that presents numerous difficulties in service delivery. It is also incredibly difficult to provide effective strategic leadership at that scale due to the number of different interests across the county. The creation of smaller unitary authorities such as the East West model would be better positioned to represent local interests. This model does not facilitate the creation of a combined authority and is not clear on the potential for devolution in the county.

5) Do the unitary councils proposed by the councils represent a credible geography?

We believe that this proposal does not represent a credible geography for unitary governance in Cumbria. Cumbria is a very large and complex county. This often results in difficulties for service delivery, local leadership and remoteness of decision making. Cumbria has numerous competing or conflicting issues. For example, the nuclear industry which makes up the majority of employment in West Cumbria is not wholly supported throughout the county. This has the potential to be detrimental in the long term to the functioning geographical economy of West Cumbria. Whilst the population of the county is 500,000 and therefore meets the ideal population size for unitary authorities, it would not serve the best interests of the county as a whole. Whilst the population of the proposed east west split is below 300,000, this proposal would allow for more local service delivery and both authorities would still be in the top half of English unitaries by population size.

1) Is the councils’ proposal likely to improve local government and service delivery across each area? Specifically, is it likely to improve council services, give greater value for money, generate savings, provide stronger strategic and local leadership, and create more sustainable structures?

The North South proposal is likely to lead to some improvements in service delivery across the area. However these benefits will be lessened by splitting West Cumbria into two separate authorities. Many existing services, particularly those provided by the existing upper tier authority are provided on a West Cumbria footprint. Therefore the opportunity to capitalise on this existing delivery footprint would be lost under this model.

Key points

  • Improve services: Similar to the East West proposal, this model creates the potential for service delivery to be local, focused and aligned with the needs, of Cumbria. Services would also be delivered on a scale that is appropriate to Cumbria. However, the separation of the existing delivery footprint of West Cumbria will mean that services will not be necessarily aligned with infrastructure and community assets. Existing service alignment will also need to be reconfigured on differing footprints which will not enable the existing patchwork of service delivery to be integrated more effectively to benefit the needs of residents. Many existing services currently provided by the upper tier authority in the county are delivered on a west Cumbria (Allerdale and Copeland) footprint.
  • Give greater value for money: This model would create the potential for the delivery of more effective services than the existing structures are able to provide and unlock investment in council services that would benefit the residents of Cumbria. These investments could be made within a timescale that provides greater value for money across the county.
  • Generate savings: The proposed savings generated under this proposal are similar to those within the East West model and are likely to be realised over a similar time period.
  • Provide stronger strategic and local leaders: This proposal creates the opportunity to create a Mayoral Combined Authority that can drive strategic leadership and enable greater collaboration on strategic issues. In addition to this, it will create local authorities of a scale that can provide leadership at a local level. Critically however, it would see the separation of the west Cumbria functioning economic area at that local level. This could have implications for issues such as nuclear policy, around which the west Cumbria functioning economic area is based.
  • Create more sustainable structures: The long term running costs for a two unitary council model will be lower than the current local government. The potential to create a Combined Mayoral Authority could also attract additional funding for services in the county.

2) Where it is proposed that services will be delivered on a different geographic footprint to currently, or through some form of joint arrangements is this likely to improve those services? Such services may for example be children’s services, waste collection and disposal, adult health and social care, planning, and transport.

North and South unitiaries will allow for close alignment with communities in the delivery of services but key aspects of service delivery in areas such as Adult social care will potentially be delivered on different geographic footprints to existing service delivery because of the splitting of the west Cumbria area. Whilst this model may potentially take full advantage of the Combined Mayoral Authority Model to enable joined up services across the county in areas such as skills and transport more localised services will see existing delivery footprints replaced. For example, under the current system highways are managed under structures that align with an East and West footprint (Copeland and Allerdale and Barrow and South Lakeland). The proposed North South model will result in key transport corridors falling within different authorities. In addition to this, much of the existing Adult social care and Children's services are delivered on a west Cumbria footprint. This proposal would see assets within West Cumbria fall between two differing authorities which may affect service delivery for local residents.

3) Is the councils’ proposal also likely to impact local public services delivered by others, such as police, fire and rescue, and health services?

Police, fire and rescue

Will not change boundaries: Two unitaries based on North Cumbria and South Cumbria would not impact on the boundaries of the police, fire and rescue services which operate across Cumbria. Ambulance services are administered across the North West so would also not be affected.

Retains strategic direction through Combined Authority: Police, fire, rescue, emergency planning and the Local Resilience Forum will operate across the Cumbria Combined Authority enabling integrated strategic planning.

Consolidating services and intelligence: Other public services require local authorities to have detailed knowledge and intelligence regarding their communities e.g. safeguarding. Many current local authority services are structured through three locality teams or the six Districts and this model consolidates these services into two local authority counterparts for data sharing and joint working.

Healthcare

Driving local place-based working: The current healthcare geography of Cumbria does not align with District boundaries and is currently split between the North Cumbria Health and Care System and the Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System. Integrated Care Systems will rely on place based partnerships to deliver effectively. This will require local knowledge and understanding which will be delivered through East and West unitary authorities that reflect the communities and dynamics of local places.

4) Do you support proposal from the Councils

We are supportive of the principle of two unitary authorities in Cumbria. However, as outlined in the responses to previous questions, we believe there is a better model that will improve the long term sustainability of those councils and their delivery of services for local residents. We believe there are implications arising from this model that will significantly limit the potential strategic benefits from Local Government Reorganisation in the county. The dividing of West Cumbria into two separate unitary authorities results in the separation of a strong cultural and economic functioning area. West Cumbria provides a strong existing footprint for delivery across a range of services but it is also home to an internationally significant nuclear cluster, which provides a significant proportion of the areas employment and economic future. Dividing this area’s local governance into two different authorities would therefore miss an opportunity to provide real strategic and long lasting benefits.

5) Do the unitary councils proposed by the councils represent a credible geography?

This proposal presents a credible geography in terms of the appropriate size of the proposed authorities to create the potential for service improvements in Cumbria. However, the proposal would see the key functioning economic area of West Cumbria divided into two different authorities. This proposal doesn’t build on the strong cultural, economic and historical links in West Cumbria. There are strong bonds between the towns of Workington and Whitehaven, for example. The public infrastructure of West Cumbria is often shared with the area being served by a single further education college and hospital. It would be difficult to maximise the potential of the economically dominant nuclear sector in West Cumbria if the area was represented by two authorities, especially if those authorities had different policy positions on the future of nuclear in the UK. The flow of people and services between the two existing authorities make a compelling case for single unitary governance that the North South proposal does not satisfy in terms of geography.

 

What happened before the consultation was announced?

Our outline proposal was submitted to the Government on November 9.  A proposal mirroring this was also sent by Copeland Borough Council. You can read this below.

This was followed by a full proposal which was was sent to the government on 8 December 2020.

Cumbria Local Government Reorganisation Outline Proposal

You can download the outline proposal report, or it is available in the sections below.

Read the outline proposal

This is the outline proposal for local government reorganisation in Cumbria submitted by Allerdale Borough Council. It details the case for change in Cumbria, how we are agreeing the best geographic model and the further detail that will be included in our full proposal.

Objectives of this report The key objectives of this document are to:

  • Clearly outline the case for change;
  • Demonstrate our vision for local government in Cumbria and how that supports the delivery of key elements of the Government’s policy agenda;
  • Document the criteria to agree a geographic model for future unitaries; and
  • Outline the further detail to be included in the full proposal by the 9th December

Cumbria has significant strengths and opportunities to grow and develop, from the existing strong tourism industry to nuclear and renewables assets that can enable it to lead the UK towards net zero ambitions.

Cumbria has significant assets and opportunities to develop and grow which
include:

  • The opportunity to establish an elected mayor to promote the region and give a clear voice for the people and economy of Cumbria through devolution.
  • Cumbria is a Centre of Nuclear Excellence: decarbonising heat, power and transport, and driving clean growth as we head towards Net Zero by 2050. Through the Barrow shipyard we are also at the core of the UK’s defence industries and nuclear deterrent.
  • We have significant assets for renewable energy including a large coastline and favourable weather conditions which can support the UK’s clean energy agenda and net zero ambitions.
  • Cumbria is home to a wealth of natural assets including the Lake District world heritage site, three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, parts of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Cumbria Coast Marine Conservation Zone. These open spaces and their biodiversity  supports tourism which brings over 47 million people and £3.1bn to the local economy every year.
  • We make a significant contribution to national rural economy with the commitment to innovate and the use of new technologies to support food self sufficiency and wider national agricultural policy.

Cumbria faces a number of local challenges and issues while managing the national issues of devolution and EU Exit and the international challenges posed by COVID-19 and climate change.

In addition to national issues such as COVID-19, forthcoming white papers on devolution and planning, EU Exit, health and social care integration, climate change and digitisation, Cumbria faces some specific challenges including:

  • Large, rural and sparsely populated - Cumbria is the second largest county in the country but has a small and mostly rural population which means delivering high quality services fairly across the whole area is challenging.
  • Financial sustainability - Local government nationally is under significant financial pressure. Prior to COVID-19 the Councils in Cumbria required savings of £16.8m in 2020/21 on top of savings made since 2011.
  • Shrinking and ageing population - The population is older than the national average and is expected to shrink which presents a challenge regarding skills, economic growth and adult social care.
  • Inequalities- There are pockets of significant deprivation and significant variations in life expectancy, education and other key life factors across the county.

Local government reorganisation is supported by the authorities of Cumbria as it presents an opportunity to deliver better services to residents, more efficiently and will bring clarity to local government. It will enable stronger leadership for Cumbria and enable devolution to attract investment, strengthen the economy and level up the region.

The key benefits associated with a move to unitary local government are:

  • Stronger voice to central government - Unitary government will give a strong voice for the region on a regional, national and international stage.
  • Unlocking devolution – Local Government Reorganisation may enable a devolution deal with a possible mayoral Combined Authority and the region has ambitions to lead the way towards carbon negativity while creating jobs, promoting growth and ‘levelling up’ across the region.
  • More efficient governance - The two-tier system creates duplication and overhead costs for residents which reduces the value for money that the people of Cumbria expect.
  • Scale in service delivery – More efficient delivery will enable greater organisational sustainability to enable services to be resilient, efficient and improved
  • Integrating planning and delivery – the two-tier system separates planning from delivery which weakens the effectiveness of economic development. This also prevents joined up services e.g. separating delivery of children’s services from services that support children, such as leisure and cultural services.
  • Clarity in democratic representation – The two-tier system creates confusion regarding the role of District and County councils. A unitary structure provides a single organisation to contact regarding residents’ local area.

This report assumes that local government reorganisation will take place in Cumbria, and focusses on the opportunities that it presents for the people and organisations of the county.

 

A two unitary model is the only practical approach to supporting Cumbria, balancing population needs, size and efficiencies of scale with local geography, infrastructure and culture. Cumbria is a large, sparsely populated count.

Two unitaries provides the right balance of population size and economies of scale with the practicalities of Cumbrian geography, culture, society and economy. Cumbria is too large to enable a single authority to be efficient and effective but the population is too small for three authorities to be efficient. Two unitaries will enable us to meet and exceed the expectations of our communities, particularly through post-Covid recovery.

  • Cumbria has a low population density so, while the 500k population would be viable for a unitary, the population is spread over a large area which makes service delivery for the whole area more complex.
  • Services need to be local and reflect their place. Two unitary authorities will enable localism in service deliver as well as integration and harmony in delivery e.g. focused economic development. Existing County services are delivered over multiple different footprints within Cumbria so two unitaries represents a consolidation of service delivery.
  • Two unitaries enables strong democratic representation for residents and place without placing too much pressure on town and parish councils to fill the gap.
  • Many residents do not identify with the boundaries of Cumbria County Council. The county came into being in 1974 replacing Cumberland and Westmorland and does not have a single unifying functional economy, socioeconomic geography or culture.
  • Cumbria’s six largest cities and towns are in different districts and each have a very different identity and culture. Two unitaries will enable them to have a stronger voice and identity in how they are run, rather than centralising power in one hub.
  • A future mayoral Combined Authority enables strategic planning and leadership while two balanced unitaries provides local service delivery and a strong basis for inclusive, clean growth.

We will promote Cumbria with strong and fair representation for our communities and businesses. Our services will drive sustainable economic growth, enable safe and healthy lives and deliver value for money for everyone. 

How we will achieve it

  • Two unitaries providing local representation, responsibility and accountability as part of a strong Cumbria Combined Authority
  • Local, responsive, accessible services, integrating planning and service delivery
  • Strengthening our economy to lead the UK towards a cleaner, prosperous future
  • Delivering high quality services, efficiently and delivering value for our residents in collaboration with our partners

This outline proposal does not include a preferred model for two unitaries in Cumbria as we are taking a detailed, evidence-based approach to understanding the options through five main evaluation criteria which are weighted to reflect our priorities for local government reorganisation

Criteria 1
Impact on service deliveryWeighting
Service improvement5
Geography for service delivery5
Minimal service disruption4
Manageable demographics and demand4
Partnership working3
Capacity and resilience4
Criteria 2
GrowthWeighting
Economic growth potential5
Sustainable economic development5
Inclusive economic growth, social mobility and levelling up5
Unlocking investment5
Housing development provision4
Criteria 3
Financial benefits and sustainabilityWeighting
Long-term financial sustainability5
Costs and complexity of reorganisation3
Council tax equalisation3
Income potential4
Reserves, assets and liabilities4
Criteria 4
Democratic representationWeighting
Effective local representation5
Identity4
Functional economic geography3
Representation in future combined authority2

Criteria 5

Public Support

We will submit a full proposal which contains our model for local government reorganisation in Cumbria including the financial analysis that supports it, evidence of public support and a high level timeline for implementing unitary government in Cumbria.

Preferred model

Details of the geographic split of the two unitaries in Cumbria and how that model best achieves the vision set out in this document. The geographic model has not been detailed in this outline proposal as we are taking a detailed, evidence-based approach to understanding what is best for the people of Cumbria and its economic future. The previous page detailed the criteria against which we are assessing a shortlist of options.

Financial analysis

Analysis of the savings and synergies we expect to achieve through local government reorganisation, considering projected implementation costs, the implementation timeframe and when savings and benefits can be achieved.

Public support

Demonstration of the support for our two-unitary model for local government reorganisation from the public, community groups and key stakeholders.

Implementation

A high level outline plan for implementing local government reorganisation in Cumbria, considering the required democratic process and a period of shadow operations

We asked your views on our outline proposal

We wanted to hear your views on our outline proposal to ensure our final submission fully reflects the views of our communities. 

In conjunction with Copeland Borough Council, we have devised a short survey on our outline proposal. The deadline for responses has now passed.