The leaders of three councils around Morecambe Bay have jointly asked for their cross-boundary partnership to be considered in discussions about devolution and potential local government reorganisation.
Councillors Ann Thomson from Barrow Borough Council, Dr Erica Lewis from Lancaster City Council and Giles Archibald from South Lakeland District Council have asked Simon Clark, Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, that should an invitation be extended to either Cumbria or Lancashire to bring forward proposals for devolution or possible local government reorganisation, it be drafted in such a way as to allow the three councils to work with other councils in developing proposals that allow them to work more closely together.
It follows Mr Clark's meeting with local government leaders and chief executives in Cumbria on July 9 to discuss devolution and the potential for local government reorganisation, with a White Paper due on the subject in the autumn.
In a letter to the Minister, the Barrow, Lancaster and South Lakeland leaders asked the Minister to meet with them to discuss how supporting the councils’ partnership might help progress discussions on the future of devolution and possible local government in both Lancashire and Cumbria.
They said: "The region covered by our three councils, is both a substantial, natural community and a functional economic area. Ninety six per cent of the resident labour force works in the area and 75 per cent of all house moves take place within our region(excluding long-distance moves in excess of 100 miles), which exceeds MHCLGs 70 per cent threshold for a fully-integrated housing market area.
"Historically, we have been one community, and that this community continues is recognised in the health (the University Hospitals Morecambe Bay Trust); arts, culture, leisure and tourism (our Cultural Compact and shared Morecambe Bay branding) and conservation (the Morecambe Bay Partnership) sectors. As well as through the many ties of employment, education, family and friendship."
The letter highlighted the formation of the Lancaster and South Cumbria Joint Committee, which met for the first time yesterday, and expressed concern that devolution in Cumbria and Lancashire could make that co-operation and collaboration harder.
They added: "None of us support the formation of unitary county councils. We contend that the geographic spread of our large counties would leave many residents feeling disconnected from decisions made on that scale."