All four new unitary councils will replace the existing county and district councils in those three counties. A new Somerset Council will be responsible for services across Somerset, whilst a new North Yorkshire Council will replace the current upper and lower tier councils in North Yorkshire.
In Cumbria, two new councils will be created to replace the current county council and district councils – Westmorland and Furness Council and Cumberland Council.
All four councils will join the County Councils Network (CCN) as members, with the network arguing the new authorities will mix the best of both county and district councils into lean and modern councils.
It means that the CCN now represents 17 county unitary authorities, which will be 45% of its membership. As a result, the network says its advocacy on unitary-specific issues will be renewed and enhanced in the coming years, offering ‘more support than ever’ to those councils.
This includes a new ‘unitary sounding board’ made of members from councils to steer and inform the work of the network in relation services such as housing, planning, waste and leisure services.
Cllr Linda Taylor, County Councils Network Unitary Spokesperson, said:
“Tomorrow marks a big day, as councils in Somerset, North Yorkshire, Cumberland, and Westmorland and Furness complete their journey to become unitary councils. It represents the culmination of many years’ work and we wish the four new councils that come into existence the very best of luck.
“For us at CCN, it means almost half of our members are now unitary and this is reflected in our business plan for 2023 where we will look to carry out more support than ever for our unitaries.”
Cllr Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire Council and County Councils Network Finance Spokesperson, said:
“This weekend is hugely significant for North Yorkshire, as we complete our journey to become a unitary council. As England’s largest unitary, we believe we will be in a better position to leverage investment and influence, whilst mixing large strategic services with local support. As a long-time spokesperson for the County Councils Network, I look forward to bringing a more powerful voice to the table.”
Cllr Bill Revans, Leader of Somerset Council, said:
“Reorganising local government in Somerset has been a huge task which we have carried out collaboratively across all five of our predecessor councils. Somerset County Council was a long-time member of the County Councils Network, and we look forward to the new Somerset Council being part of their growing cohort of unitary councils, with the aim of influencing government policy on behalf of our residents.”
Cllr Jonathan Brook, Leader of Westmorland and Furness Council, said:
“We are delighted to see the introduction of Westmorland and Furness Council this weekend, the culmination of a once in a generation opportunity to reconfigure local government in Cumbria. We are an ambitious council with some big plans in the pipeline for our residents, and we are pleased to be joining the County Councils Network so we can continue to advocate for a fair deal from government for our residents, communities and businesses.”
Cllr Mark Fryer, Leader of Cumberland Council, said:
“Tomorrow is a pivotal day for residents of Allerdale, Carlisle, Copeland and their surrounding areas as our new unitary council comes into being. We believe that this brings the best of local government in North and West Cumbria together to create a new and modern council that is more effective and efficient. We want to help unleash the potential of our residents, and I am delighted that we are joining the County Councils Network so we can champion our area at a national level.”