CUMBRIA can have a “unitary” local authority - but only if the county’s six existing district councils agree, says housing minister James Brokenshire.

Current processes for the reorganisation of Cumbria’s two-tier council structure - which features six district councils and the county council - are due to fall away in March.

A unanimous agreement between local district councils will have to be reached before a unitary authority can be created.

But Cumbria County Council Leader Stewart Young has predicted that the county’s district council will never agree.

Mr Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, has backed proposals for a unitary authority in Buckinghamshire, where there are five existing councils.

Speaking in Parliament, the minister said: “From March 2019 the consent provisions in the process we are currently using for reorganisations fall away.

“In future, any proposal considered under the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act process will require unanimous consent from all councils.”

At a meeting of Cumbria County Council last month, moves to open talks with the Government were agreed.

And, at a council cabinet meeting on December 20, leaders are due to consider approaching the secretary of state for the Government’s views on the potential for a reorganisation in Cumbria.

Responding to the latest shift, Mr Young said there was “absolutely no chance” that the seven existing council in Cumbria could agree.

“That is never going to happen - not just in Cumbria but that would never happen anywhere,” he said.

“If they insist on unanimous consent and that is the only way you can get it, then it’s not going happen and they know that.”

But he said Government continues to changes the circumstances in which a proposal will be considered and the current circumstances are yet to be set out.

Mr Young believes that sooner or later it is inevitable Cumbria will move to a unitary system.

At a Joint Districts meeting today, Alan Smith, leader of Allerdale Council, has asked that the matter be discussed.

He said there may be a chance that proposals can be submitted once more before March. He is in favour of a new model but doesn’t believe this should just be a county council.

“We have a better chance of reorganising Cumbria if the six districts and the county work together.

“The county model is broken. The districts work,” he said.

“We must ensure that the full range of options are discussed and that the most up to date and accurate financial information is utilised to discuss these options before any determination on the future of Local Government in Cumbria is reached.”