SOUTH Lakes MP Tim Farron has waded into the debate about whether the number of councils in Cumbria should be slashed.

The Liberal Democrat MP has written to James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Local Government, calling on him to scrap the idea of replacing Cumbria’s seven councils with one or two.

Mr Farron said places in the south of the county did not want to be “run from Carlisle” and declared the idea “nothing more than a multi-million white elephant”.

“People want the key decisions that affect them to be made by people in their local area - not 50 miles up the road in Carlisle,” said Mr Farron.

“This would lead to local people losing control over how local services are run. We need to keep up the pressure so that the Government move the plan for a unitary Cumbria from their in-tray straight into the rubbish bin where it belongs.”

But his comments were criticised by Cllr Tom Harvey, the deputy leader of South Lakeland District Council.

He accused Mr Farron of “rank hypocrisy”.

Cllr Harvey, a Conservative councillor, said: “Claiming that long-overdue reform of local government in Cumbria will take decision-making further away from South Lakeland while at the same time doing everything in his power to block Brexit and keep control over our border, money and laws in Brussels is rank hypocrisy of the highest order.”

It follows news that Cumbria County Council has yet to get a reply from Government to a letter sent in December, calling for unitary talks to start.

This week, Cumbrian Labour peer, Lord Liddle of Wigton raised questions in the House of Lords with under secretary of state for Local Government, Lord Bourne, following a recent decision that five councils in Buckinghamshire can become one.

Lord Liddle said: “I realise that a lot of effort has gone into this Buckinghamshire case and that the Government will have an awful lot of their plate by the end of March, but for us this is an absolutely vital concern if we are to avoid major cuts in our services and to have an efficient local authority system in Cumbria”

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth said the issue was “very much in the in-tray” and had not been ruled out in “any way.”

He said despite the March deadline, local government reorganisation could still be considered under invitation from Mr Brokenshire.