Residents, businesses and organisations can now have their say on a proposal to create a new unitary authority around Morecambe Bay.
A consultation launches today (10 November) after three neighbouring councils formally submitted an outline proposal to Government.
Barrow Borough Council, Lancaster City Council and South Lakeland District Council agreed the Bay bid on Thursday and leaders of the three councils are urging residents and businesses to ‘Back the Bay’ and show their support for the new-look authority proposal.
In a joint statement, the leaders of the three district councils, Councillor Ann Thomson from Barrow Borough Council, Councillor Dr Erica Lewis from Lancaster City Council and Councillor Giles Archibald from South Lakeland District Council, said: “We agreed to submit the outline proposal at Full Council meetings last week and now we are inviting people to have their say on the idea.
“The feedback from this engagement will form an important part of the more detailed final submission to Government, which we need to send in by 9 December.
“It is a short timeframe and conducting a consultation exercise during a pandemic lockdown is not ideal, especially as we are already extremely busy with the Civid-19 response, but we are working to the Government’s timetable.
“We have set up an online survey, have commissioned independent polling and are inviting people to email or write in with their views and comments
“It’s important that people have their say, whether they agree or disagree with the proposals, as any local government reorganisation will have significant implications for our communities and the way services are delivered. We need to understand people’s views and any concerns and challenges they believe the creation of a new unitary may bring.
“We firmly believe that the option of a Bay unitary, linking up our three councils, has the potential to deliver the best outcomes for our communities.’’
Last month Government sent letters to councils in Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset inviting submissions on ‘locally-led proposals for unitary government’ in those areas.
That means councils in these areas could formally submit initial proposals for local government restructure by yesterday’s deadline (9 November), to replace the existing two-tier system of county and district councils with a system where there is a single tier for any given area.
The formal invitation from Government is the first step in the legal process towards restructuring. After initial proposals are submitted a final more detailed case must be submitted by 9 December. After that Government will decide which proposal to take forward.
Proposals have already been put forward by the county councils in both Lancashire and Cumbria, the latter based on the existing county boundary. In a letter to councils in Cumbria inviting proposals for local government reorganisation, Government officials made it clear that they will consider proposals from ‘one or more districts in a county and one or more relevant adjoining areas’. A cross-boundary authority around the Bay would fit that criteria and the Leaders of the three councils say it is the best way forward for Barrow, Lancaster and South Lakeland.
The leaders’ joint statement continued: “We shouldn’t be constrained by lines on a map. We should be looking to a solution that offers the most positive benefits for our communities, one that builds on existing relationships and connections, one that is ambitious and supports innovation and sustainable economic prosperity.
“We already share a postcode and a mutual history due to, either whole or in part, being within the boundary of the old county of Lancashire before the last major wave of local government reorganisation in 1974.
“We also have a shared health footprint, a shared economic and social geography and shared ambitions around critical issues like meeting the climate emergency and tackling wealth and health inequalities.
“We already have a strong track record working together and our detailed submission will highlight the undoubted opportunities that even closer working between our three councils could deliver.’’
A new Bay authority could merge the three district councils and draw down powers from the county councils, to create a new single tier authority for the area responsible for local government functions. It would build on the existing functioning economic geography, health footprint and strong community links across the Bay area, with the potential to further drive economic, social and environmental benefits for the combined area’s residents, businesses and visitors.
The detailed case for a unitary to be submitted by 9 December will examine ways to improve local government and service delivery across the Bay, giving greater value for money, generating efficiencies and providing stronger strategic and local leadership.
The detailed case will also set out the degree of local support for the proposal following a period of engagement with residents, businesses and key stakeholders. It will examine how police, fire and rescue services would be managed, opportunities for reform to health and care services and include in-depth financial modelling.
The potential for future Combined Authority arrangements, enabling a fuller devolution of resources and powers from Government, would also be covered in the final submission.
The three councils already have a successful economic partnership, with the authorities working together on projects to attract more investment and employment to support economic sustainability and prosperity in the Morecambe Bay area.
The Bay economic partnership has already achieved notable results, including a successful joint submission to be one of only two “rural” bids in the UK to be accepted by the Arts Council last year to develop a ‘Cultural Compact’ around Morecambe Bay, harnessing cultural and creative opportunities to boost the local economy.
In addition, the economic partnership has submitted a shared funding bid for the combined area to support further action to address the climate emergency, build local community wealth, and improve the well-being of residents.
The detailed submission to Government due by 9 December will include evidence of local views on the Bay authority proposal.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Residents can have their say in a variety of ways:
Online survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/JYMB9DH
Further information about the Bay proposal, including the full outline proposal document, some frequently asked questions and more information about the survey, can be found on the websites of each council:
Email views to your local council:
Write to your local council:
The Bay proposal
Barrow Borough Council
Town Hall, Duke Street
Barrow-in-Furness LA14 2LD
The Bay proposal
Lancaster City Council
Lancaster Town Hall, Dalton Square
Lancaster LA1 1PJ
The Bay proposal
South Lakeland District Council
South Lakeland House, Lowther Street
Kendal LA9 4DQ