Three local authority leaders are leading calls for a devolution deal that crosses county boundaries to be considered in any future discussions about giving local government greater powers.
Lancaster City Council, South Lakeland District Council and Barrow Borough Council have built a strong partnership, including the designation of Morecambe Bay as an Arts Council Cultural Compact, following a joint bid last year.
All three council leaders now say there is the potential to go further, in the event that the Government considers local government reorganisation and the devolution of further powers.
They have written to Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, calling for options that cross county boundaries to be considered.
This follows similar letters from the leaders of Lancashire and Cumbria County Councils and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, on the topic of local government organisation and devolution in Lancashire and Cumbria.
Councillor Dr Erica Lewis, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “I’m a strong advocate of further devolution to the regions. So far, however, all the options relating to Lancashire and Cumbria that have been discussed are based on the existing county boundaries, which do not necessarily reflect the realities of our community.
“There is a strong natural community around Morecambe Bay based on geography, community, family ties, economic and educational links, which have wide potential to be strengthened even further.
“In the event that the Government decides to consider options for local government organisation and devolution in Lancashire and Cumbria, I would like these natural links to be recognised.
“Options that cross the county boundaries should not simply be dismissed because of arbitrary, and quite new, lines on a map. We should embrace the opportunity to devolve power, redistribute resources and deepen democracy.”
The letter to Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP is co-signed by the leaders of South Lakeland District Council, Councillor Giles Archibald, and Barrow Borough Council, Councillor Ann Thomson.
Councillor Ann Thomson, leader of Barrow Borough Council, added: “There is a strong cohesion between our communities across Morecambe Bay. They share a natural identity and look to each other in terms of the economy, business, education and family connections.
“If the minister was to consider devolution for Cumbria and Lancashire, we believe a cross-border option is a natural fit and should be on the table. There is so much potential across our area. Innovation exists here at every turn and corner. “We need to look for new ways to optimize the opportunities we have for the future. These should not be restricted by a border on a map.”
Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader of South Lakeland District Council, said: “The area around the bay made up of our three councils already operates well as a functioning economic area, which is why we saw the value of working together; building on our collective strengths in areas such as energy, advanced manufacturing, digital technologies, life sciences, health innovation, higher education, culture and the visitor economy. It is also the same geography as our Health Services.
“Collaborating positively in this cross-border manner, as we have been for some time, makes absolute sense and has already borne fruit, for example in being accepted as a DCMS and Arts Council Cultural Compact.
“There are many critical issues we want to address, such as rising levels of poverty, climate change, biodiversity loss and affordable housing shortages and health inequalities. Given our current excellent collaboration it makes entire sense to work with Barrow and Lancaster on these and other important issues across all public services, based on locality and place.
“If an alternative organisational structure attracts additional resources or in some other way we can make it easier for us to tackle the concerns of our residents, then of course we will actively consider it.”