West Cumbria’s two main councils are now poised to work more closely together than ever before to meet the shared challenges ahead.

Allerdale and Copeland are thrashing out a deal that would involve them combining forces in some service areas against a backdrop of central Government cutbacks.

Council chiefs on the neighbouring authorities are now developing a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ which would see this relationship formalised.

High-level talks are now under way between officers of both councils to identify areas where they could support one another, though discussions are still in the very early stages.

Mike Starkie, Copeland’s first elected mayor, said that the two councils “share similar challenges”, but also “opportunities that have not been realised to date.”

He added:  “I am keen that drawing the strengths of both councils together will result in a positive and collaborative approach to promoting our economy, punch above our weight nationally and bring together the best of what we both do in the interests of our business, our communities and the taxpayer – with a strong focus on service delivery.

“It is early in the dialogue and there is much to do, but I feel confident that the will and desire is there to be successful partners.

“It’s far too early to talk about operating models and governance, but I am optimistic that we will lead the way in Cumbria towards a new and modern form of efficient and successful local government.

“What we have today is a Memorandum of Understanding – a commitment to making progress – and I am sure there will be much debate and discussion, both within each council and our communities, but I am convinced that this is the right approach and the right thing to do.

Mayor Starkie said that ongoing discussions had highlighted an “number of areas” for “further exploration” but was unwilling to go into further detail at this stage.

He said that the councils had historically worked against one another “to their mutual detriment” but would now “work together for their mutual benefit” as “equal partners”.

During a recent meeting on September 12, that the councils presented a case to ministers for Growth Funding for West Cumbria.

The move towards closer working also follows a meeting with Henri Muirson, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership described as “successful and productive”

Both councils have also been the subject of a Local Government Association Peer Review which was “largely positive” and recognised their strengths.

But the Review also acknowledged that local government is changing and the two neighbouring authorities are well-placed to modernise together.

Marion Fitzgerald, the leader of Allerdale borough council, said she was “looking forward” to establishing a closer working relationship with Copeland council to “achieve a strong and sustainable future for West Cumbria”.

She said: “We believe it is hugely important everyone works together for the betterment of our area – something which was identified by our recent Peer Challenge.

“That’s why we have been working jointly on a Memorandum of Understanding and hope to formalise that in the near future.

“And this spirit of cooperation is already bearing fruit, with representatives of both councils attending the Convention of the North in Rotherham earlier this month to present a case to Ministers for Growth Funding for our area.”

Under the memorandum plans, the two councils are proposing work together to boost the fortunes of West Cumbria “as one place”, and  to create a “more efficient” service delivery.

The councils also want to “make best use” of strengths, including the pooling of skills and talents.

Central to the approach is to capitalise on nuclear opportunities and to develop a “common position” around economic growth and tourism.