Cumbria is the second biggest county in England, but it is one of the least populated.

Yet we have eight authorities governing Cumbria - each with their exceedingly well-paid senior officers: Directors, Chief Executives, Lawyers, Treasurers and, between the county and district councils, 368 councillors (all of whom are being paid).

Northumberland has one council (67 councillors); Cornwall has one council (123 councillors); Durham has one council (126 councillors). The plain fact is that, here in Cumbria, we are grossly over-governed, over-regulated and, not least, overtaxed!

Millions could be saved if Cumbria transformed into, say, one or two unitary authorities with devolved authority to local committees, including parish councils (if they wish), and the voluntary sector in order to address the very local needs. After an initial transition period of two to three years the potential savings (Wiltshire saved £100m) would ensure that those services which we the voters think are important, such as Children’s Services, would not need to be axed, underfunded or reduced.

It is abundantly clear to those with vision that local government must redefine its role and purpose, working with others to facilitate change and achieve wanted community outcomes and, most importantly, establishing a deeper appreciation of and responsiveness to what really matters to local communities.

This is not to say unitary local government is a panacea. Many detractors argue against reform largely because of the effort and cost. In reality, transition costs are relatively small and can be addressed effectively over a period of time. In addition, combining County and District functions and responsibilities would allow for great symbiotic relationships and synergies to be developed - such as in Housing, addressing homelessness and Social Services departments, Trading Standards and Environmental Health, pay roll and HR streamlining, road repairs and street/gully cleaning, strategic and local development plans, IT systems ... and so on ...

However, and notwithstanding his 27 years of parliamentary experience and expertise, I believe Eric Martlew is wrong to suggest that progress towards these unitary changes should wait until the current pandemic is over. When will that be? If ever… We need to get on with the transformation now if we are to have improved, cheaper and more responsive local government at our earliest opportunity.

I have advocated unitary status for Cumbria for many years. I will continue to do so. To do otherwise would be to perpetuate the current bureaucratic and financial insanity of local government in Cumbria. I hope many of your readers share my sentiments.

Eddie Martin