Today the local government trade press and local media in Cumbria have reported that council leaders are in discussions with the government over a possible devolution and unitary model.
The model put forward is to create two unitary councils in the county and a combined mayoral authority overseeing the large strategic services, media reports suggest. This was the main topic of discussion at a summit in Penrith yesterday.
Below, the County Councils Network has responded to the reports in the press.
A County Councils Network spokesperson said:
“Existing government guidance, based on academic evidence, from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government on minimum population levels for the creation of new unitary authorities is publicly stated as being significantly in excess of 300,000. Any combination of districts seeking to form two or three unitary authorities in Cumbria would fail to meet this requirement, and they would likely be unable to put forward a realistic business case.
“Independent modelling from EY for the CCN shows that a model which seeks to create small unitary councils, supported by a combined authority to deliver strategic services, would re-create two-tier government, is fraught with risk and would incur a loss up to £7m over the first five years. This is in contrast with a single unitary council model, which could save up to £53m over the same timeframe in the area the size of Cumbria, while also delivering better services.
“CCN urges ministers across government to use the forthcoming devolution whitepaper to clearly set out an evidence-based criteria for unitary status. This should include confirmation of a minimum population limit ‘substantially more’ than 300,000 with no upper population limit; ensure proposals offer better public service delivery across the area; and provides the thresholds and tests of local consensus.”