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Cumbria prepares for major shift in council landscape

From April 1, 2023, Cumbria will see it’s council landscape change dramatically with the introduction of two unitary authorities to replace the existing six district councils and Cumbria County Council. Preparations are now well underway to ensure the transition occurs smoothly.

This includes elections taking place this year, on May 5, 2022, to elect two shadow authorities, allowing for the establishment of key council structures and functions in advance of the switchover date.

The two new councils will be Cumberland Council (covering the current area of Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland) and Westmorland and Furness Council (covering the current areas of Barrow, Eden and South Lakeland).

Cumberland Council will have 46 councillors, while Westmorland and Furness will have 65 councillors.

Notices of Election have been published and anyone intending to stand as a candidate in the May elections is advised to submit their nomination papers ahead of a 4pm deadline on April 5, 2022.

Residents must be on the electoral register to vote, with the deadline to register being midnight on April 14, 2022.

Councillors will be elected for a five-year term of office – the first year being served on the ‘shadow authority’, followed by four years serving within the fully-established unitary authority post-April 1, 2023.

In advance of the elections, two new websites have been established to serve the shadow authorities, providing information on the upcoming elections and information on the Joint Committees.

These Joint Committees have been set up prior to the establishment of the shadow authorities and will only meet for a short period until the elections.

They will advise and make recommendations to the shadow authorities on some of the key early decisions, such as the appointment of Interim Statutory Officers and a new council constitution.

The Westmorland and Furness Committee met for the first time in Kendal on March 29, 2022, while the Cumberland Joint Committee met a day later on March 30, 2022, in Carlisle.

With the introduction of two new unitary authorities, the public sector landscape in Cumbria will undergo one of its most significant changes for many years.

Existing county, borough and district councils will continue to operate and deliver all current services until Vesting Day for the two new authorities on April 1, 2023.

Once that date is reached, the two shadow authorities will become official unitary authorities and take over responsibility for the services, with the existing county, city, borough and district councils being dissolved.

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