Work has started to build the ‘identity’ of the new Westmorland and Furness Council.
A Cabinet meeting of the Shadow Authority for Westmorland and Furness Council on 22 July took the first steps in defining the vision, priorities and values of the new authority and has also considered options for a new council logo.
The important process to create a Council Plan will capture the new council’s vision and ambitions for Westmorland and Furness. It will show how the council intends to prioritise its activities and services to achieve those aims, along with the values and principles that will underpin how it works.
Priorities being discussed include addressing health and social inequalities, measures to tackle climate change, highways and transport, children’s care, the economy and housing.
Shadow Authority Cabinet members agreed the process for adopting a Council Plan, setting out a ‘high level’ strategic direction to be agreed in the Autumn, followed by a period of engagement with residents, businesses and organisations during the first full year of the new council after ‘Vesting Day’ on 1 April 2023. This will help to inform the detail of the strategies needed to deliver key priorities.
The meeting also considered a report on logo designs for the new council.
The two shortlisted options followed a brief that asked designers to create a modern, clean and flexible logo that represents the Westmorland and Furness Council area, including its heritage and landscape.
One design features aspects that reference ‘rolling hills’ (of the Pennines and Lake District area), sea and water. It uses elements from local historic and prospective flags and spells out the W and the F from Westmorland and Furness.
The second design has references to historic and prospective flags of the area alongside mountains, rivers and hills and together the three main elements create a logo with elements that look like a crest.
Comments and feedback from a range of stakeholders – to a Cabinet meeting in September – will help the new council choose which of the two designs they’d like to adopt as the new council logo.
Councillor Jonathan Brook, Leader of Westmorland and Furness Council, said: “Today’s meeting marked another important milestone as we start to really build the identity of the new council.
“Our Council Plan will articulate our vision and our priorities and is a crucial document for us. It will capture what we are all about, how we will work and the issues we want to address.
“We look forward to getting our communities’ views on how we can deliver these ambitions, and will be launching an extensive engagement process from April next year.
“Our logo is also important in building that identity. We want to be a modern, progressive and inclusive council, and we want our logo to capture that. We considered submissions from a number designers, both council staff across Cumbria and some external designers, and have narrowed the field down to two excellent designs.’’
Councillor Virginia Taylor, Portfolio Holder for Sustainable Communities and Localities, described the Council Plan as the ‘guide and inspiration’ for the new authority’s aims and objectives.
Councillor Peter Thornton, Portfolio Holder for Highways and Assets, added: “Along with the Medium Term Financial Plan, the Council Plan is the foundation of everything that we do, and is a very important document. We have a responsibility to our residents to deliver our priorities and services and the Council Plan should be a document that unites us in those aims.’’
In the biggest change to Cumbria’s council structures since 1974, two new ‘unitary’ councils are being formed to replace the existing set-up of six district councils and Cumbria County Council.
In the area currently covered by Barrow Borough, Eden District and South Lakeland District councils the new unitary authority will be called Westmorland and Furness Council.
In the area currently covered by Allerdale Borough, Carlisle City and Copeland Borough councils the new unitary authority will be called Cumberland Council.
Westmorland and Furness Council will act in ‘shadow’ form for the next eight months, as its councillors engage in the planning and preparation for Vesting Day on 1 April 2023.
1 April 2023 is the point where Westmorland and Furness Council and its councillors will officially take over responsibility for all services across the Barrow, Eden and South Lakeland areas and the existing Barrow Borough, Eden District and South Lakeland District councils, along with Cumbria County Council, will be dissolved.
Until April 2023 all current services will continue to be delivered by the existing councils, overseen by the councillors on those councils.
In the meantime, councillors on the Shadow Authority for Westmorland and Furness Council will be working with the Local Government Reorganisation programme planning for the new council to ‘go live’ in 2023.
The Cabinet meeting also considered baseline ‘blueprint’ documents which outline how services can expect to be organised and operate on Vesting Day to ensure a smooth transition to the new councils.
Integral to the operation of those services is the need to ensure the new council has a sustainable financial footing.
Cabinet members reviewed the high-level principles which will underpin how funding for the two new councils, as well as the Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, will be allocated.
These seek to ensure that the funding of the new Councils addresses ‘need’ and not simply population and geography. Councillors also agreed a timeline when key decisions on the new council’s budgets and a future budget strategy will be taken.
Councillor Brook continued: “The blueprints and the financial planning are critical for the effective planning for our new council.
“They set out how things will be run from day one and how the funding for services will be provided.
“This is a hugely challenging and complex process and we know that there are challenges ahead for the new council, including around addressing existing budget deficits we are already aware of.
“But this process of creating a new unitary allows us the opportunity and flexibility to address these things from day one. It gives us a once-in-a-generation chance to transform the way we work to put our communities at the heart of everything we do, deliver excellent services and at the same time create efficiencies from more joined-up working that will save money in the long-term.’’