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Cumbria (Structural Changes) Order 2022

Volume 820: debated on Monday 14 March 2022

North Yorkshire (Structural Changes) Order 2022

Somerset (Structural Changes) Order 2022

Motions to Approve

Moved by

That the draft Orders laid before the House on 24 January be approved.

Relevant document: 29th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. Considered in Grand Committee on 9 March.

My Lords, I do not want to detain the House long on this matter. I should declare my interest as a member of Cumbria County Council. I would like to put on record a couple of points. First, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, for the care and attention he paid in the debate we had in Grand Committee on these issues last week. I think that he listened.

Secondly, I put on record my view that the decision we are implementing today, which was taken last summer by Robert Jenrick—late lamented in his role as Secretary of State—to split Cumbria into two unitary authorities is unsustainable, possibly in the short term and certainly in the medium term. In the short term, it involves splitting services that are vital yet fragile, such as social care and child protection, in the space of 12 months. I fear the consequences for the most vulnerable in our society as a result. On longer-term sustainability, the Government are imposing unnatural communities on Cumbria. I cannot believe that these new authorities will sustain public support in the longer term.

My Lords, we debated this at some length in Grand Committee. The noble Lord made those points very eloquently. Since then, I have agreed to meet with him and the current county council leader. In fact, I also disclosed and put on record that I have never been to Cumbria and I hope to put that right.

It is a great shame; I am hearing “shame” from my own Benches. I want to make sure that I remedy that fact and get up to Cumbria. It is clearly a very nice place.

It does not need to be the case that councils split the commissioning of adult social care and social services. Even though they are split into two county councils, they can commission together. As a local authority leader I did that myself, as part of the late lamented tri-borough arrangements, whereby the commissioning of adult social care and elements of children’s social care happened collaboratively with neighbouring London boroughs. I am sure that could happen in Cumbria as well. So where there is a will, there is a way and I am sure the leaders of the two new local authorities will seek to build bridges rather than erect walls.

Motions agreed.