Cumbria's decision to walk away from a government devolution deal is costing Copeland “multi-million-pounds” in funding, says the borough’s mayor.

Mike Starkie says the area continues to be “punished” by the Government following the controversial decision last March to reject a £300m deal that would have transferred extra power and responsibility locally.

The elected mayor has spoken out after Cumbria’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) received only £12.7 million of a £165 million government Growth Deal bid – the lowest amount of 11 LEPs to have bid.

And Mr Starkie says he fears Copeland’s bid to be part of a “potentially transformational” business rates pilot scheme – that would see the rates collected by an authority stay in the local area – will be unsuccessful for the same reason.

He said: “The lack of a devolution deal is potentially costing us millions.

“The Government has made it known that from 2020 local authorities will be able to keep all of the business rates it collects, which will be a massive dividend for Copeland, given the huge rates paid by the nuclear industry.”

Currently a local authority collects the business rates in its area but they are forwarded to a central pool to be redistributed around the country.

“We’ll be applying to take part in a pilot scheme to start this process early, perhaps this year or next, which will mean millions of pounds going back into our coffers to be spent on services we provide and the area’s regeneration.

“However, the initial feedback we’ve received is not positive, and we’re hearing the pilots will be offered to those areas that are moving forward with devolution.”

In March, Mr Starkie was one of two council leaders to vote unsuccessfully for proceeding with the Cumbria Deal devolution talks with the government.


If the deal had been agreed, all seven local councils would have been retained, but a new overarching ‘combined authority’ board would have been formed, made up of the seven leaders, with a new mayor elected to lead it.

The powerful mayoral role may have been combined with that of the police and crime commissioner.

The 30-year deal would have given the county greater control over its own industry, transport, highways, planning, enterprise, skills and tourism.

Mr Starkie added that, while satisfied that 75 per cent of the Growth Deal award is heading to west Cumbria for projects in Whitehaven and Lillyhall, he is “disappointed” with the overall countywide pot.

“Those areas that are working towards a devolution deal with the Government have received twice as much as those that aren’t; we knew this would happen but still chose to walk away from the negotiating table.

“That’s why I was so keen for us to continue devolution negotiations with the Government at the time, and will be pushing again for Cumbria to move forward with the deal.”