I am delighted that local residents are saying that, if local government is to be reorganised, they would prefer to see the creation of a Morecambe Bay authority rather than one based on the whole of Cumbria.

An opinion poll and an extensive survey have made this abundantly clear.

Votes in the three district councils – South Lakeland, Lancaster and Barrow – also overwhelmingly supported this option.

In total, there were 110 in favour, with only eight against and seven abstentions.

As I have repeatedly said, now is not the right time to be looking at local government reorganisation.

We should be concentrating on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the Government has forced our hand.

Cumbria County Council wants to replace the existing six district councils and the county council with a single unitary authority.

However, I am convinced 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.

And local people have shown they agree.

An internet survey conducted by Lancaster, Barrow and South Lakeland councils attracted 2,796 responses.

More than 80 per cent said a new local authority covering Barrow, Lancaster and South Lakeland would be preferable to one based further afield – for example, in Carlisle (Cumbria County Council).

More than 80 per cent agreed a new local council for the Bay would be best placed to shape a sustainable local economy for our area and around 80 per cent that our local environment is better protected by a single council focused on Barrow, Lancaster and South Lakeland.

Additionally, an independent telephone poll of 1,012 adults living in the Bay area, conducted by Survation, showed that around 60 per cent of those taking part believed the Morecambe Bay area would be best served by a unitary council based on the geographies of Barrow, Lancaster and South Lakeland districts.

Only 30 per cent thought a single unitary would be better.

About 62 per cent thought such a Bay option would improve council services.

Furthermore, during stakeholder consultation meetings across the Bay, a key theme among the business community was how a new Bay authority would enhance the area’s economic attractiveness to businesses and investors.

Several parish and town councils have also expressed a preference for a Bay authority, with none to my knowledge preferring a Cumbria-wide unitary.

This all amounts to really strong evidence that people who live in the Morecambe Bay area would prefer a local government body that is based on that geographical area.

The Government is currently looking at our proposal.

Let’s hope it is chosen as an option.

If it is, you will have another chance to comment in February.

Councillor Giles Archibald

Leader of South Lakeland District Council