A SENIOR Eden councillor has criticised the continued work on proposed changes to local Government in Cumbria in the face of the continued Covid-19 pandemic.

Liberal Democrat Eden councillor Mark Rudhall dismissed the proposed reorganisation of councils in Cumbria as the "folly of central Government", and as such costs incurred exploring options for local Government change should be borne by Westminster.

Mr Rudhall was speaking at this week's meeting of the Eden executive, in which it was unanimously agreed that the council should work with Allerdale, Copeland and Carlisle councils on detailed plans for the creation of a new council that would span the area covered by all four local authorities.

The executive also agreed to allocate £50,000 from the council's reserves towards this work, twice the originally proposed amount, given the short timescale in which the proposal must be complete.

While Mr Rudhall did vote in favour of the work going ahead, he voiced his disquiet at the continuation of work on local Government changes in Cumbria while a Covid-19 second wave was gathering pace.

"We are being asked to spend officer time doing local Government reorganisation," he said.

"We're also being asked to spend Eden taxpayers' money on local Government reorganisation, when it's a folly of central Government.

"If central Government want us to go down this route, then they should be funding it, we shouldn't be having to fund it ourselves."

He added that the precious time of council officers, and the money to come from Eden Council, would be better spent focussing on direct support for Eden residents and businesses affected by Covid-19.

"By all accounts, this second wave that is coming could be worse than what we envisaged at the beginning of the year.

"And an awful lot of officer time and taxpayers' money was spent looking after the residents of Eden and businesses in Eden, making sure that our economy didn't suffer too much.

"We really should be spending our time on making sure again, with this second wave, that the economy is looked after, our residents are looked after, our businesses are looked after.

"That £50,000 that central Government wants us to spend on local Government reorganisation could be better spent elsewhere.

"Really, that's what we should be spending our time on, and looking at reorganising local Government at a later date.

"We should be spending our time doing something far more productive than looking at reorganising Cumbria at the moment."

Council leader and fellow Liberal Democrat Virginia Taylor added she understood that, in many respects, "the ministers themselves agree with that point of view.

"They're on record as saying this isn't the right time for local Government reorganisation," she said.

"But for the three areas - ourselves, Somerset and North Yorkshire, there was such a move from the local authorities that they decided that we need to press ahead with it."

She added that there was now a great deal of momentum behind the proposed local Government reorganisation in Cumbria.

"Right or wrong it seems that we need to go along with what we cannot resist," she said.

Local government secretary, Robert Jenrick, recently announced a formal invitation from the councils in Cumbria on their proposals for council reorganisation.

He said earlier this month that "changing the structure of local government can offer better value for money and improved services for residents".