Advice for our residents and businesses

The former Secretary of State announced the proposal for Local Government Reform in Cumbria.

He proposed two unitary councils - one unitary council covering the existing areas of Barrow, Eden and South Lakeland and a secondary unitary council covering the existing areas of Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland. 

A formal process in Parliament to take this forward.  

The former Secretary of State made a Written Ministerial Statement announcing he will be seeking Parliamentary approval to implement the proposal that he has selected. A Structural Changes Order (SCO) was agreed in March 2022.

The SCO provides the legal basis on which to implement the change to local government structures, creating the new authorities from the Vesting Day.

The Cumbria (Structural Changes) Order 2022


July to October/November 2021


All seven affected councils worked with government to develop the content of the Structural Changes Order (SCO) and put in place the Programme Management arrangements to deliver the two new councils.

The SCO created Joint Committees to sit alongside the existing council structures. These shadow arrangements will make decisions on how the new authorities are constituted. Joint Committees are responsible for the preparatory work to establish the Shadow Authorities and overseeing the implementation planning until Shadow Authorities are elected. The Joint Committees will be dissolved once the Shadow Authorities and executives for the two new councils are established. 

The Programme Management arrangements will determine how existing officers will work together to create the new councils e.g. what workstreams and roles are required.  The Programme will include work to develop the new council operating models.


November 2021 to April 2023

During this time as the new authorities are being designed and constituted the existing councils will continue to operate as normal, providing services and support for residents, businesses and communities. 

Now that the SCO has been approved by Parliament, implementation activities will be delivered and preparations will be made for the formal go-live of the new authorities.

A change readiness assessment will take place to confirm all requirements have been met and the new authorities can safely go-live on Vesting Day. 

1 April 2023 

'Vesting Day' is when the new authorities 'go live' and the old councils (predecessor authorities) cease to exist.

In October 2020, the Government invited local authorities in three areas (Cumbria, Somerset and North Yorkshire) to submit locally-led proposals for new unitary authorities.

Councils in Cumbria had until 9 November to prepare initial proposals 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.

The government made its decision on 21 July 2021 and councils have now been asked to progress with implementation. 

  1. Barrow, South Lakeland and Lancaster jointly submitted a proposal for two unitary councils: 'The Bay' comprising the area covered by Barrow Borough, South Lakeland District and Lancaster City Councils and 'North Cumbria', comprising the area covered by Allerdale Borough, Carlisle City, Copeland Borough and Eden District Councils.
  2. Allerdale and Copeland jointly submitted a proposal for two unitary councils: 'West Cumbria' comprising the area covered by Allerdale Borough, Carlisle City and Copeland Borough Councils and 'East Cumbria' comprising the area covered by Barrow Borough, Eden District and South Lakeland District Councils.
  3. Carlisle and Eden jointly submitted a proposal for two unitary councils: 'North Cumbria' comprising the area covered by Allerdale Borough, Carlisle City and Eden District Councils and 'South Cumbria' comprising the area covered by Barrow Borough, Copeland Borough and South Lakeland District Councils.
  4. Cumbria County Council submitted a proposal for a single unitary council covering the county area of Cumbria 'One Cumbria'.

The Government consulted on all options, with consultation closing on 19 April 2021, and it announced the preferred option, two, that it is taking forward. 

A unitary council brings all the different services currently offered by county and district councils in an area under 'one roof'.

Currently, residents here are governed by a two-tier system, where local services are provided by district councils and the county council.

In addition to county and district councils, there are also parish and town councils across many parts of Cumbria and these will continue to play an important role in local communities once the new unitary councils are established.

Under the current two-tier arrangements there is sometimes confusion over which council provides which service. 

For example, at the moment districts are responsible for waste collection but the county council is responsible for waste disposal. Districts are responsible for the majority of off-street parking, but the county council is responsible for on-street parking. Districts provide leisure services, but the county council provide libraries and youth services. 

As part of the two new unitary authorities all these services and more would be provided by one single, new organisation, enabling us to make sure these areas are better joined-up and with the flexibility and efficiency to provide better services. 

Being a unitary should help create more effective work between local government and other service providers such as the NHS. This will benefit residents. 

There will be one new council covering the current area of Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland, council's name will be Cumberland Council

A second new council will provide services to those in the current areas of Barrow, Eden and South Lakeland, the council's name will be Westmorland and Furness Council.

The names for the two new councils have been agreed by government and were approved within the Structural Changes Order.

The number of Councillors each council will have: 

Cumberland will have 46 members.

Westmorland and Furness will have 65 members.

It's too early to say. As the new councils are designed and constituted these will be questions that will be addressed as part of that process.

It is likely that many existing bases, particularly for operational delivery, will continue to be needed in the new councils, although we would expect some changes as teams are brought together and new arrangements are made.

Chief Executives of the seven authorities have been meeting weekly to progress the transition programme. They make up the LGR Programme Board and have identified four phases of the transition - Mobilisation, Design, Implementation and Stabilisation. We are currently in phase two, Design, which is about designing the structures for the two new councils ready for consideration by the shadow authorities.

design phases new

Having a unitary authority, rather than the current two-tier system of councils, should help create more effective work between local government and other service providers such as the NHS. 

The Secretary of State received four proposals to consider for reorganisation, and the East/West option was the preferred model chosen.

Any model of unitary local government would require relationships with two health systems, reflecting the complex nature of Cumbria's service delivery landscape. Both unitaries will retain their relationship with the North West Ambulance Service which operates across the region.

Over the last few months, extensive conversations have taken place with other authorities who have been through a similar process, including Dorset, Cornwall, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire. 

Conversations continue with these authorities, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, (formerly the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) and many others to ensure that we learn from their experiences to make this the best possible process for Cumbria, its residents, communities, businesses and organisations.

One of Cumbria's greatest strengths is the pride of the people who choose to live and work here and the power of this cannot be underestimated. The decision to move to two new unitaries has been taken because many people, including the government, believe it will bring significant benefits for all key stakeholders and communities. 

You can familiarise yourself with the successful submission.

These are early days in the process and as further details and information becomes clear we are committed to sharing this with the public via this website and other sources still to be confirmed.