Community groups, parish councils and businesses have been briefed on the next steps in a bid to create a new unitary authority around Morecambe Bay.
A series of virtual meetings offered key stakeholders across the Bay area the chance to quiz council leaders about the proposal.
Those attending the meetings heard about the strong backing for the Bay authority plan. This was confirmed by the results of a survey, independent opinion poll, virtual engagement events and feedback from more than 4,000 respondents, which showed overwhelming support for the Bay proposal.
Under the plan, the district councils (Barrow, Lancaster and South Lakeland) and county councils (Lancashire and Cumbria) would be replaced with a newly created, single tier ‘unitary’ local authority for the area. The new authority would deliver the services currently provided by both the district and county councils such as waste and recycling collections, public realm, planning, highways and transport and adult and children’s social care.
A joint survey by the three councils that gathered nearly 3,000 responses showed 85% of people in the area favoured a Bay authority over a county-wide unitary.
Full Council meetings of all three councils in December agreed the business case for a Bay unitary should be submitted to Government.
The full proposal presents the case for a new unitary council for the Bay, focused on the cohesiveness of the area and its communities.
The proposal indicates how by working together with a range of organisations in the Bay area, the new authority will drive positive change on shared priorities including building community power and engagement, reducing inequality and improving wellbeing, building community wealth and tackling the climate emergency.
The latest virtual briefing events, held in the first week in February, offered community groups and parish and town councils from across the Bay area an opportunity to ask more questions about the proposal and learn more about the strong locality and community working plans it contains.
Business leaders discussed how the Bay proposal could harness and develop the Bay’s existing functioning economic area, building a thriving economy with a louder and more strategic voice as the area recovers from the impacts of Covid. The meeting also discussed advantages presented by a more joined-up approach to strategic investment and opportunities for the arts and cultural sectors across The Bay area.
In a joint statement, the Leaders of the three councils, Councillor Ann Thomson from Barrow Borough Council, Councillor Dr Erica Lewis from Lancaster City Council and Councillor Giles Archibald from South Lakeland District Council, said: “We held similar events with these stakeholder groups at the end of last year and the feedback from those meetings and the results of the public consultation helped inform our detailed submission to Government.
“Once again we have been delighted with the positive reaction to our proposal. We are very pleased with the way that organisations from big businesses to small charities and local parish councils have taken the trouble to engage with us, learn about the proposal and share their views.
“The Bay bid has really captured the imagination and all of the most recent virtual events were supportive of our ambitions. We believe there is clear agreement that this is an exciting prospect.
“We had a very short timeframe to put this proposal together to meet the Government’s deadlines, but we believe it is ambitious, forward-thinking and really gets to the heart of what our area needs, an arrangement that works in the best interests of our residents, businesses and organisations and is not constrained by lines on a map.’’
Plans for a new Bay authority were 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 and agreed to develop the full proposal for submission by the Government’s deadline of 9 December 2020.
Government is now considering the proposals that have been submitted and it is expected that Government will shortly be announcing which options, if any, it will be taking forward for a further round of consultation.
- Anyone who was not able to join the most recent briefings, or just wants to find out more about The Bay proposal, is invited to watch a live briefing this Wednesday, February 17, starting at 3pm.
All are welcome to attend the briefing, which should last around 30-40 minutes. The Leaders of the three councils will outline the case for The Bay unitary, the key priorities for the new authority and how you can get involved.
To book a place visit www.Lancaster.gov.uk/thebay-briefing. You can send any questions in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org by 9am on Wednesday, 17 February.