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Saturday, 04 July 2015

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Idea for one Cumbrian council gets mixed reaction

DOUBTS have been raised about proposals to combine Cumbrian councils.

Councillor Eddie Martin, leader of Cumbria County Council, has invited district council leaders to discuss reforming the county’s political layout.

And the possibility of one council for the whole of the county has been met with a mixed reaction from South Cumbria’s leaders.

Councillor Dave Pidduck, leader of Barrow Borough Council, said he did not believe a unitary authority would benefit the people of Barrow – but he would be happy to discuss other options.

He told the Evening Mail: “What Eddie is talking about, at the bottom line, is a unitary authority and we have been down this route on a number of occasions.

“My initial response is if he wants to sit down and talk with the other district leaders, then we'll do that.

“My doubts are that I don't think we could go for a unitary authority in Cumbria.

“That would be taking the decisions much further away from Barrow. But in terms of other ideas then we would be quite happy to sit down and talk.”

Councillor Elaine Woodburn, leader of Copeland Borough Council, said it was important the people of her area controlled their own destiny.

She said: “Our priority is protecting Copeland and our energy ambition, and I believe that the people of Copeland should decide their own future.

“The difficulty with a unitary authority is having people making decisions where they don't care or understand about how important issues such as the nuclear industry are to an area.

“I want people in Copeland to be in control of their own destiny.”

But leader of South Lakeland District Council, Councillor Peter Thornton, was more open to discussing reform.

He said: “At SLDC we decided some time ago that we needed to work better with other councils.

“We are already working closely with other councils and see Eden, Barrow, Carlisle, Cumbria, Lancaster and the health partnerships as our partners.

“The unitary debate needs to move forward. I welcome Cllr Martin’s recognition that there are a number of options, not simply an option based upon the current Cumbria boundary.

“South Lakeland District Council will be at the table, developing and shaping the options available, ensuring that a future decision will deliver the best solution for our communities and provide value for money quality services.”

Have your say

I'm surprised to admit this as a Labour supporter but Eddie Martin's statement is one of the most sensible things I've ever heard from a Councillor.

The duplication between the Districts and County is indefensible. It is expensive and confusing.

Having unitary Councils is inevitable so lets sort it out in Cumbria before the government imposes something we don't want.

Cumbria is obviously too big. It needs to be 3 or 4 single tier Councils. I'd like to see a Furness Council but I'd settle for a south lakes council. Any single tier solution is better than what we've got.

Posted by Dave Brown on 11 June 2012 at 21:18

Some clarification is needed. I am quite emphatically NOT suggesting a single unitary council for Cumbria. I am suggesting we discuss what would be the best option for Cumbria in the light of drastic cuts to budgets and reducing services... and more to come. Neither am I suggesting that the people of Barrow or Copeland should have local government taken away from them by putting the seat of power in Kendal or Carlisle; in fact, quite the opposite! I want to return local government to local people. We do not do that and cannot do that by having one massive council for Cumbria. I would oppose that idea.

We have 371 councillors to govern Cumbria. For goodness sake, Parliament has only 650 MPs to govern the whole of the UK!

We simply must give better value for money and better and more services. We cannot do that whilst we have seven councils and their associated vast bureaucracies. Together, I believe we are haemorrhaging money which could be better spent on services or reducing the council tax in these increasingly hard times.

I have no prescription for local government in Cumbria and there is no ulterior motive. All I am asking is that we discuss possibilities. The status quo is not an option. I suggest that neither David nor Elaine can afford to bury their head in the sand. What kind of leadership would that be were they to do so?

Posted by Eddie Martin on 9 June 2012 at 16:51

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