Backing for new council's vision and priorities

Around three-quarters of respondents surveyed have backed the vision, priorities and values being proposed by the new Westmorland and Furness Council.

Hundreds of responses were received during a four-week engagement process to test the emerging vision outlined in the draft Westmorland and Furness Council Plan.

The engagement was an early opportunity for people to share their views on the proposed priorities and strategic aims in the draft Council Plan. The plan also captures the values and principles that will underpin how the council will work.

Feedback during the initial conversations was received from key stakeholders, including members of the public, community and charity organisations, partner organisations, businesses and council staff.

Drop-ins were held at supermarkets and community buildings across the new authority area, in Dalton, Barrow, Kendal, Alston, Walney, Appleby, Penrith, Shap, Kirkby Stephen, Ulverston and Windermere and individuals and organisations were able to comment through an online survey, a series of online briefings or fill out comment forms and pick-up copies of the Council Plan document at libraries.

The draft Plan outlines a vision to make Westmorland and Furness ‘A great place to live, work and thrive – now and in the future’.

Priorities for the new council include addressing health and social inequalities, measures to tackle climate change, highways and transport, empowering and working with communities, children’s care, the economy and housing.

The survey and workshops asked the following main questions:

  • Do you agree that our values are right for the new Westmorland and Furness Council?
  • Do you agree that this is the right vision for the new Westmorland and Furness Council?
  • Do you agree that our priorities are right for the new Westmorland and Furness Council?

A report to today’s (Friday, 7 October) meeting of the Cabinet of the Shadow Authority for Westmorland and Furness Council in Barrow Town Hall included results of the initial engagement, which shows 77% of respondents support the vision, 73% support the values and 72% support the priorities in the draft Council Plan. Over 66% of responses received came from members of the public.

All the feedback received will now help to inform the final version of the Council Plan vision, values and priorities, due to be approved later this year.

The Cabinet report notes a number of changes and refinements will now be made to the draft plan in light of the engagement feedback, including better use of maps and infographics, additional material celebrating the communities of Westmorland and Furness and what makes them unique and a more active focus on equality and diversity and on connectivity, housing and the role of transport.

Once this strategic document is approved, Westmorland and Furness Council will continue to engage with residents, businesses, parish and town councils and organisations during the first full year of the new council after ‘Vesting Day’ on 1 April 2023, as it develops the detailed strategies that will deliver the agreed Council Plan vision and priorities.

Leader of Westmorland and Furness Council, Councillor Jonathan Brook, said: “Building the new authority is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way local government operates, making sure local communities are at the heart of everything the council does.

“Defining our vision and priorities is vitally important as we build the identity of the new council and our Council Plan is an important statement of intent, a document that provides a framework and a sense of direction.

“We are delighted that so many individuals, organisations and businesses have already taken the time to comment on the emerging vision and we are pleased to note that they think we are on the right track.

“We have always said that we want to be a listening council and that we want our communities to help us to shape the new authority, so it is important that we listen to the feedback received and we are already making some changes to the draft plan as a result.

“This isn’t the end of the story though, and there will be plenty of opportunities to get involved in the discussion.

“At this stage our Council Plan can’t include everything that the new council will be doing over the next few years. Much of that detail will come with the development of the strategies that sit underneath the vision and priorities, and we will be launching a comprehensive consultation exercise in the first full year of the new council to involve all our communities in that process to ensure this really does become ‘Your Plan’ for the future of Westmorland and Furness.’’

Westmorland and Furness Council will be England’s third largest unitary authority by area when it comes into effect next year. It will provide services to approximately 225,000 residents who are currently served by Barrow Borough, Eden District, South Lakeland District and Cumbria County councils, which are being abolished.

Westmorland and Furness Council will act in ‘shadow’ form for the next six months, as its councillors engage in the planning and preparation for Vesting Day on 1 April 2023.

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.