Proposals for Cumbria’s devolution have been described as a “big mess” by opponents.

Fault lines over possible plans to have an elected mayor and either a single unitary authority or two unitary authorities, based on a north-south split, have surfaced.

John Mallinson, Conservative leader of Carlisle City Council said some southern parts of the county could also be merged into the “Lancashire footprint”.

The options are due to be considered in a Government White Paper which is likely to be published in the autumn.

Mr Mallinson also said the new arrangements could be in place by 2022.

However Allerdale Councillor, Labour’s Michael Heaslip said: “If they wanted to, the Government could devolve powers without making any changes to the structure of local Government.

"The reason why they want unitary local Government is not to enhance local democracy, quite the opposite: It is simply to make it easier for them to manage local Government.

“It’s said that when civil servant lost the empire they decided to colonise England instead.

“It makes life easier for people running the country as a series of colonies.”

Speaking at a Brampton parish council meeting on Tuesday, Independent city councillor Raymond Tinnion said: “There is going to be a north-south split. The conservatives are going to try and push everything through because they run most of the councils.”

Speaking about the geographical divide he said: “They’ve never said where it will be, when it all comes out it will be a big mess.

"The south won’t be happy when they want to give money to Carlisle.”

He also said one mayor would not be able to run the demographically diverse county.

In response however, Mr Mallinson said: “I have been discussing this with Government ministers and councillor Tinnion has not.

“The Government is saying is that if we want more devolution of powers they would be looking for an elected mayor.

“My preference for Cumbria is for a north and south split.

“The White Paper will give us a lot of clarity and things at the moment are in the air.

“We are early in the debate and people are entitled to voice their opinions - we need to get the detail to see what is on offer.

“At this stage I’m better informed than Councillor Tinnion so wait until you see what comes out.”

City councillor Colin Glover, leader of the Labour group, said: “I’m broadly supportive of unitary local authorities but we’ll need to recognise natural communities.

“I worry that the message that seems to be coming out is that the Government don’t want to work with councils that don’t comply, they will get less investment and will be frozen out - we don’t serve communities by threatening them, that is letting people down.

“If there’s one lesson we can learn from the coronavirus pandemic, it needs to be driven by the needs of local people.”