CUMBRIA has taken a significant step forward with plans for new unitary councils following approval from Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick.

Two unitary councils will be established - an east unitary council covering Barrow, Eden and South Lakeland, and a west unitary council covering Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: "Establishing these new unitary councils will help ensure that people and businesses across Cumbria can have the sustainable high-quality local services they deserve. 

"This reorganisation will bring significant benefits to the area, giving local leaders the tools to help level up opportunity and prosperity across their communities.

"The locally-led plans are being implemented, subject to Parliamentary approval, after a period of consultation which considered views from residents, business leaders and councils."

The Secretary of State has asked the existing councils and their partners to work collaboratively and constructively together to drive forward the process of establishing unitary councils while plans are laid before Parliament for approval.

Mr Jenrick said: “I have always been clear that any restructuring of local government must be locally-led and will not involve top-down solutions from Government.

“Residents, businesses and service providers have had their say on what will work best for their area and now councils in Cumbria can start planning for the next step.

“This is part of this Government’s mission to level up every part of the country, by devolving power to our regions."

This follows an announcement by the Prime Minister last week whereby he set out his vision to level up and unite the whole of the United Kingdom. In a speech, he set out the Government’s role to:

•Empower strong local leaders by taking a more flexible approach to devolution, with new ‘county deals’

•Focus on growing the private sector by creating the conditions for long-term growth and productivity

•Invest in infrastructure and connectivity

•Ensure that people have access to good public services, and the skills and training needed to get good jobs

•Improve the quality of life in communities through cutting crime and regenerating towns and high streets

Moving forward, the necessary secondary legislation will be put in place subject to Parliamentary approval, to implement the decisions which have been made for the area.

At the turn of the year, a draft structural changes order will be laid in Parliament.

This will include plans for the necessary transitional arrangements, including for elections in May 2022 for the future unitary councils.

Speaking before the announcement, Sam Plum, chief executive of Barrow Council, said she couldn't sleep at night and that it felt like an exam day at school.