Liberal Democrats clash with Carlisle MP over Levelling-Up ‘chess moves’


CARLISLE’S MP has clashed with the Liberal Democrats over plans for a Mayoral authority.

Cumberland Council, which is seen to preside over Carlisle, Allerdale and Copeland, could form a Combined Authority with Westmorland & Furness Council in Eden, South Lakeland and Barrow-in-Furness.

The move, if leaders are in favour, would be subject to a devolution settlement from Government meaning increased investment into the area and decision-making handed down from Westminster to a local level.

If elected leaders are agreeable it could also mean the creation of a Mayor of Cumbria who would lead on driving investment into the area as well as big picture strategic work.

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Conservative MP for Carlisle, John Stevenson has revealed intentions to amend the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill, giving Government powers to impose devolution on areas where the majority are in favor but one side is holding-up the talks.

But Liberal Democrats have said the plans are ‘chess moves’ to ensure an ‘authoritarian’ Mayor of Cumbria is created.

Cumberland Council’s Lib Dem member for Stanwix Brian Wernham said: “John Stevenson wants to snatch strategy over transport and other strategic issues from the recently elected Unitary Councils and be installed as boss for NHS commissioning with no checks or balances.

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“The Liberal Democrats have criticized the Government’s upcoming Devolution Bill as a further consolidation of centralized power in Whitehall with mayors of large areas having to beg for funding from Government ministers.”

But Mr Stevenson said: “It’s easy to say. I thought that the Lib Dems believe in devolution and local government.”

In response to claims from the Lib Dems that a mayoral authority would take power away from the unitary councils, Mr Stevenson said: “They don’t know what they’re talking about, it’s devolving power from the center and the two authorities in Cumbria would be part of that Combined Authority which would enhance their power as well.

“I can’t believe the stupidity of them because they are a party that generally believes in localism. They’re being hypocritical, allegedly they believe in devolving power to local areas.”

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