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Elections postponed as plans for unitary authority take step forward

County council elections due to take place in Cumbria on May 6 have been postponed until next year.

It follows an announcement yesterday that residents are to be given their say on proposals to establish a unitary model of local government for the area.

Following a formal invitation from government last October to councils in Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset to submit proposals for reorganisation, the Local Government Secretary has received eight locally-led proposals for consideration – four from councils in Cumbria and two each from councils in Somerset and North Yorkshire.

The proposals outline how the councils who have responded to the invitation want to restructure local government in their area to establish unitary local government.

This means moving from a two-tier system of county and district councils, to a system where there is a single tier for any given area.

The consultation asks a number of questions about each proposal around value for money, proposed geography of the council and impact of the proposal on local services.

As a result of yesterday’s consultation launch, the county council elections due to be held in Cumbria will be rescheduled to May 2022.

Subject to Parliamentary approval, it is expected that any new unitary council will be fully operational from April, 2023, with transitional arrangements expected to be in place from 2022, including elections in May 2022 to the shadow or continuing councils.

Following the announcement, Mike Starkie, mayor of Copeland, said: “We welcome the Government’s launch of a public consultation into local government reorganisation in Cumbria, and the inclusion of the joint submission by Copeland Borough Council and Allerdale Borough Council as one of the four options being considered.

“We have made a compelling case for change with the two-unitary model we propose; with Copeland, Allerdale and Carlisle forming a west authority, and Eden, South Lakeland and Barrow forming a east authority. 

“It would create organisations that are large enough to drive our ambitions for growth and excellent service delivery, while maintaining local identity and close links to our local communities.

“It is crucial that Copeland and Allerdale remain part of the same authority in any future model. Our local population, and our community and industry leaders, are equally unequivocal in this regard, and our proposal reflects that.

“The Government is actively driving its devolution agenda, and the right platform and structure needs to be created in Cumbria to allow the area to prosper, unlock growth, and to facilitate the levelling up agenda in the near future.

“We believe our model is the option that will deliver the future we deserve, and we encourage our community to respond to this important consultation to make your voices heard.”