Decision To Come Next Week On Morecambe Bay Authority Bid

Councillors will next week be considering whether to back a bid to create a new unitary authority around Morecambe Bay.

Meetings of Barrow Borough Council, Lancaster City Council and South Lakeland District Council on Tuesday, 8 December, are being recommended to support the submission of a full proposal to Government.

A new Bay authority would both merge the three councils, drawing down powers from Cumbria and Lancashire County Councils, and create a new single tier local authority for the area.

Proposals for a new Bay authority have been developed in response to a letter from Government in October sent to councils in Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset inviting submissions on ‘locally-led proposals for unitary government’ in those areas.

Councils were asked by the Government to consider ways to replace the existing two-tier system of county and district councils with a system where there is a single tier for any given area.

Lancaster was able to join with Barrow and South Lakeland in making a proposal because the invitation included an option to include an adjacent authority.

The three councils submitted a joint outline proposal for a new Bay authority on 9 November 2020 and agreed to develop the full proposal for submission on 9 December 2020.

The full proposal case to be discussed at next week’s Full Council meetings examines ways to improve local government and service delivery across the Bay, generating efficiencies and providing stronger strategic and local leadership.

It also includes the results of an extensive engagement exercise that took place over the past three weeks, costings and financial modelling and information on how services including police and fire and rescue would fit within the new Bay authority.

A report to next week’s Full Council says: “If approved this will enable the councils to present the full proposal to Government, demonstrating how a unitary council will be an effective driver of economic, social and environmental benefits for the area’s residents, businesses and visitors, realise the strategic potential of the area and enable transformation of public services. 

“The full proposal presents the case for a new unitary council for the Bay, focussed on the cohesiveness of the area and its communities.

“It indicates the opportunities, strengths and strategic needs of the area’s communities and economy and how they may best be addressed through the leadership and resources of local government based on the geography of the functioning economic area and health services footprint.’’

Consultation on the idea of a Bay authority included an on-line survey, independent polling and letters and emails that gathered the opinions of nearly 4,000 residents. Discussions were held directly with key stakeholder organisations, while ‘virtual’ events with the leaders and senior officers of the three councils allowed hundreds of businesses, community groups, parish and town councils and young people, youth organisations and young carers to ask questions and offer feedback.

The detailed results from the consultation and analysis of the survey and polling results accompany the full proposal document being considered by councillors next week.

If approved by each of the three councils on Tuesday, the full proposal will be submitted to Government on 9 December.

Government will then consider whether any submission will be taken forward and will conduct further consultation.

The full proposal document, public opinion survey results and agenda report for next week’s Full Council meetings can be viewed on the websites of each council:

Barrow Borough Council

Lancaster City Council

South Lakeland District Council

If this plan is approved it would split Cumbria into two authorities with Allerdale, Copeland, Carlisle and Eden potentially forming the other.