Call for review into Cumbria's local government reform brushed off by Government

Cumbria is set to be split into two authorities. Credit: ITV Border

The threat of judicial review into local government reform has been brushed off by the Government in a letter to the county council.

It responded after Cumbria County Council's leader Stewart Young expressed intentions to launch a judicial review into proposed reform.

The leader of the council sent a pre-action protocol letter earlier this year, expressing an interest in beginning the legal proceedings. It asked for an explanation from the Government as to why it had decided on plans to replace the single county council and six district councils with two unitary authorities.

The letter claimed that the Government's plans to split Cumbria two unitary authorities was "unlawful".

Whitehall though has issued a response dismissing the claims.

A spokesperson for Cumbria County Council said:

When Housing, Communities and Local Government secretary Robert Jenrick called for proposals on how the county should be governed, the winning bid was with an "east" and "west" split.

Copeland, Allerdale and Carlisle will make up the west authority, Barrow, Eden and South Lakeland will be east.

Work is already underway to prepare for the change which is set to be completed by 2023.

Some have criticised the council leader's call for legal action into local government reform including councillor Stephen Haralsden, who called a special meeting of the council at Carlisle Racecourse last month, passing a motion that judicial review is a "waste" of the council's time and taxpayer's money.

Labour's counter at the meeting was to ask how much it cost to hire out the Jockey Club venue for the day to discuss the topic which could have been debated at the next full council meeting.

Carlisle Labour county councillor Alan McGuckin said: "I don't think the council will do a judicial review until they've checked with a barrister to see if we still have grounds."

He called local government reform "a nightmare scenario".

Explaining the call for judicial review, he said: "We seem to have been treated differently to North Yorkshire and Somerset."

He said that one unitary council was created for both but that the geography in Cumbria is similar.

"The Government themselves produced guidelines, the basis on which they would decide."

He said that one of the guidelines is that there would need to be a minimum of 300,000 people in the population for a local authority.

Councillor McGuckin said: "Both the local authorities in Cumbria would be less than that guideline. You've got to have scale."

"The two unitary authorities don't have scale."

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