Government dismisses unified bay authority pitch

Plans to create a bay area unitary authority have been rejected by the government, which has instead announced the creation of two new authorities for Cumbria.

South Lakeland District Council, Barrow Borough Council and Lancaster City Council had submitted a joint proposal for a combined authority which had received positive backing from more than 4,000 residents.

It was hoped that the new single-tier unitary 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.

However, the government has instead opted to divide Cumbria along an East/West divide. The new East Cumbria council joins the areas covered by Barrow Borough, Eden District and South Lakeland District Councils, while the new West Cumbria authority joins the areas covered by Allerdale Borough, Copeland Borough and Carlisle City Councils.

Councillor Ann Thomson, leader of Barrow Borough Council; councillor Caroline Jackson, leader of Lancaster City Council and councillor Jonathan Brook, leader of South Lakeland District Council, all expressed surprise at the decision.

They issued a joint statement, saying: "We feel the option selected does not match the ambition and transformative potential of our own proposal, which was for a Bay authority sitting alongside a new North Cumbria unitary.

"Our view is that the East/West option does not demonstrate the clarity and confidence that our own proposal delivered and has not commanded the same level of support."

The councillors believe that the bay option had received the best response from the public, and that a minister had previously disclosed that the majority of email responses they’d received to their own consultation were from respondents backing The Bay.

"It is disappointing that those views have not carried the weight we hoped they would when Government promised this would be a ‘locally led’ process," they said.

"We have responded to the government’s invitation in good faith and believe that The Bay and North Cumbria was the only option that demonstrably met the main criteria: improving services, credible geography and within the population range 300,000 to 600,000. Furthermore, we were able to demonstrate much greater levels of local support than other options being considered.

"We will now reflect on today’s announcement and decide what our next steps should be, in the best interests of our residents, our organisations and our businesses."

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