A VOTE has been passed at Penrith Town Council which proposed writing a letter of support for the legal action against Local Government Reform.

Town councillor Jonathan Davies proposed the motion last month, he feels that public engagement in the process of Local Government Reform has been "sorely lacking."

Cumbria County Council's Judicial Review, or legal challenge, opposes the decision to split Cumbria into two unitary authorities by 2023.

The Labour and Liberal Democrat leadership at county council feel that the east-west split has been designed to benefit the Conservative Government politically.

Cllr Davies, who represents Penrith West on the town council, said: "More than anything it's about openness and transparency. There's been quite a lack of public engagement with the whole consultation process."

The motion to back a Judicial Review was unanimously supported at the town council meeting in October. Leader of Cumbria County Council Stewart Young has said that it is a sign of "growing support amongst the public, once they realise what is happening."

Cllr Davies, a member of the Putting Cumbria First political party said: "We've long supported the need for change to Local Government in Cumbria. A number of us proposed that the council in Cumbria should look at forming a combined authority.

"What we've got now to be quite honest is the worst of all options. Basically Eden is going to have 16 councillors spread across nine wards."

Westmorland and Furness Council will have 65 councillors across 28 wards.

Cllr Davies said: "At the minute Eden has 38 councillors. I am really worried that less councillors is going to mean even less engagement."

"I am of no doubt that the reason those unitaries have been put forward is for political gain for the Conservatives."

He said that Covid-19 restrictions have meant that the public were not as involved in the process to reform their Local Authorities as they should have been.

"There should have been a referendum. The final decision should have rested with the people of Cumbria. Not top down from Westminster. The transparency and public engagement area sorely lacking in this process."

Leader of Allerdale Borough Council Mike Johnson said: "There was a huge consultation process. The town council would have had an opportunity to feed into the district's response which is the democratic way of doing things.

"We don't get everything we want all the time. It is what it is, that's called being an adult and dealing with it."

Conservative leaders Cllr Johnson and Mayor of Copeland Mike Johnson proposed the two authority split when the Secretary of State asked for views on how the county should look after LGR.