South Lakeland has reached a crucial moment in its history and decisions taken over the coming months will have long-standing effects on the lives of all residents.

At stake are so many important issues – the economic vibrancy of the area; our ability to tackle climate change and look after the environment; our relationship with the National Health Service; the strength of local democracy; and, indeed, our sense of identity.

Why is this? It’s because the Government is inviting councils up and down the country to put forward proposals to create ‘unitary authorities’ – in effect, ‘super councils’ which will be responsible for running all local services, instead of the current system where county councils manage some services and district councils, like South Lakeland, look after others.

The way our services are managed and delivered makes a massive difference to everyone’s lives. I have repeatedly said this is not the right time to be looking at local government reorganisation.

Instead, councils should be concentrating on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the Government has told councils to prepare business cases for how local government should be organised going forward.

So, we have to move on. And that’s why I want to ask every resident in South Lakeland to give support to proposals to create a unitary authority based on the Morecambe Bay footprint of South Lakeland, Barrow and Lancaster.

This is the model on which South Lakeland District Council is preparing a detailed business case.

On December 8 the council will decide whether or not to submit it to the Government.

Cumbria County Council’s cabinet decided recently to submit proposals to replace the existing six district councils and the county council with a single unitary authority. I think this would be a disaster for South Lakeland residents.

A single Cumbria unitary would artificially divide the community based around the Bay. Carlisle is a remote centre for many people in the south of the county and would not be a good place for a new local authority HQ.

Indeed, there is nowhere convenient in the county for all its widespread residents. I believe - indeed, I am convinced - that a unitary authority based on Morecambe Bay, the area currently covered by Barrow Borough Council, Lancaster City Council and South Lakeland District Council, would be so much better for people in South Lakeland. Morecambe Bay is a functioning economic area. Ninety six per cent of the resident labour force works in the area.

It is our healthcare area, sharing a footprint with the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust and with established links to the Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group and the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Trust.

The Morecambe Bay authorities of South Lakeland, Barrow and Lancaster have shared ambitions to grow the economy.

They also share a commitment to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss, coastal erosion and prevent flooding.

UUnder a single Cumbria unitary each councillor would be likely to have around 6,000 residents to look after – far more than the current 2,000 for South Lakeland councillors.   

That is a tremendous amount of extra work and would make councillors less locally accountable and might also put off some people, for example those who work or have children, from standing as councillors.

This would take us back to the days when retired and independently wealthy people were running local government – that’s not good for democracy.

People can find out more details about the proposal and give their views via an online survey by going to or by contacting their local councillor.

The Government will also ask you for your views at a later date. I urge everyone in South Lakeland to make it totally clear that, if we are required to reorganise, they want to see a future council based on the Morecambe Bay area.

Cllr Giles Archibald Leader of South Lakeland District Council