Moves to carve-up Cumbria’s “dysfunctional” local Government system have taken a major step forward - despite opposition from local councils.

High-ranking county councillors sitting in Carlisle have agreed to formally approach the Government with the idea of a unitary, or single council for Cumbria, potentially replacing all six districts and the county council.

An “expression of interest” will now be submitted to Secretary of State for Local Government, James Brokenshire MP. It potentially opens the door to scrapping local councils in Allerdale, Carlisle, Copeland, Barrow, Eden, South Lakeland – and the county council.

Any new model of local Government is far from certain with five different options on the table, which would be further explored.

They include maintaining the status quo, a single unitary authority covering the entire county, or two unitaries based on either a north-south or east-west split.

One suggestion could see two unitary authorities created to follow the existing footprint of the clinical commissioning group boundaries of Morecambe Bay, and North Cumbria CCGs.

A meeting of the county council’s cabinet in Cumbria House yesterday heard that streamlining the county’s local government estate was now considered “inevitable” – despite strong opposition from the six district councils.

The crucial difference this time, councillors heard, was that the Government

has temporarily softened the rules so that the proposal no longer requires unanimous backing from the district councils for the shake-up to happen.

County council leader Stewart Young, the Labour councillor for Upperby in Carlisle, said it was “inevitable” change was due and many believed the current two-tier system - long the subject of intense debate - to be “dysfunctional”.

It has been estimated that savings of £28.3 million a year could be made with one unitary authority, or £16.8 million annually with two.

Councillor Young said: “We all know that this can only happen with the support of the Government. Whatever we may want, it is only the Government that can do this. This has a direct effect on local services.

“It isn’t just about money but about how difficult it is to do business on a daily basis when you’re dealing with seven local authorities who invariably don’t agree on everything.

“We all know there’s millions of pounds to be saved, just on reorganising waste collection in a more rational way. We have tried for years to free up those savings but it’s very, very difficult to do.”

Cabinet member Cllr David Southward (Lab, Egremont) said the lack of support for the idea from the districts remained “the elephant in the room”.

He said: “Borough and district councils see that they have something to lose from this and that I think is very sad. I think the challenge is to encourage people to be a bit more altruistic and not to think of their own personal gain and position. If we can get district councils to realise that this is about the people of Cumbria.”

Cabinet member for health and care, Pat Bell (Penrith East), said the council owed it to the people of Cumbria to explore the idea. “We want to start the debate and I absolutely accept it’s going to be difficult.”