A key document outlining how a new council will operate has been approved.

Members of the Shadow Authority for Westmorland and Furness Council yesterday (Monday, 23 January) agreed the draft Constitution for Westmorland and Furness Council to take effect from 1 April 2023.


The Constitution sets out how council decisions will be made and the procedures which will be followed to ensure that these are efficient, transparent and accountable to members of the public.


It includes protocols and rules around a number of matters, including committees and council meetings, contract and employment procedures and codes of conduct governing councillor and council officer behaviour.


The Constitution has been drawn up to cover all functions and services to be delivered by the new Westmorland and Furness Council and will apply from when it starts operating on 1 April 2023. Until 1 April the Shadow Authority for Westmorland and Furness Council will continue to follow its constitution agreed in May 2022.


The draft Constitution for Westmorland and Furness Council approved yesterday details some important ways of working that underline the new unitary authority’s commitment to local decision-making and representation.


It has been decided that as well as an overall Strategic Planning Committee – that will cover the whole of the area of Westmorland and Furness Council dealing with strategic development management – more local planning matters will be dealt with by three Local Area Planning Committees, established on the boundaries of the current Barrow, Eden and South Lakeland councils.


The memberships of Local Area Planning Committees will be proportionate to the balance of political groups in a given area, ensuring planning matters affecting those areas are decided by local representatives. Holding Local Area Planning Committee meetings in the relevant area will also make it easier for people from those communities to attend.


The Constitution outlines how current Barrow, Eden and South Lakeland council boundaries will be used as the footprint for three new Locality Boards, which will have wide-ranging responsibilities for decision-making on a number of local issues, including some highways and transport matters, and to ensure close working and engagement with town and parish councils and local communities.


A Health and Wellbeing Board is being formed to build strong and effective partnerships between the new council, its social care and public health services, and the NHS, to help to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for local communities.


The Constitution also confirms the continuation of the Lake Administration Committee, which looks after matters connected to the lake at Windermere and includes representatives from local town and parish councils.


A cross-party Constitution Review Group was involved in the development and drafting of the new Constitution document, alongside members and officers of the current local authorities to ensure it captures and reflects existing best practice.


The draft Constitution approved yesterday will now be subject to some further updates to reflect the final management structures and details of shared or hosted services.


The Constitution Working Group will continue to meet and the Constitution will be kept under review, especially in the early period of the new council, in order to ensure it continues to reflect the developing character and culture of the new organisation and looks for continual improvement.

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