A COPELAND Council committee has expressed its preference for keeping the Allerdale and Copeland areas together in any future local government changes, as the deadline for proposals draws near.

Copeland Council's overview and scrutiny committee agreed this week to recommend that the authority supports a bid to split Cumbria's local politics along an east and west division, rather than north and south.

The committee met to discuss the proposals ahead of the rapidly approaching deadline for authorities in Cumbria to submit their proposals for changes - December 9.

The final decision on the proposal rests with Copeland's executive, led by its mayor, Mike Starkie.

There are four models for change that are set to be submitted to the Government, and authorities across Cumbria differ in the proposals they prefer.

One approach is replace the seven current councils with one, Cumbria-wide authority. This is the approach favoured by Cumbria County Council.

The second approach is for South Lakeland and Barrow to form a "Morecambe Bay" authority with Lancaster City Council, leaving Carlisle, Allerdale, Copeland and Eden to form a north Cumbrian council.

The third is to split Cumbria in two - Carlisle, Allerdale and Eden in the north and Copeland, South Lakeland and Barrow in the south. A preference for this approach has now been expressed by Carlisle City Council.

The final option is for the county to split into east and west - Carlisle, Allerdale and Copeland and Eden, South Lakeland and Barrow.

Copeland's overview and scrutiny committee supported an east to west division, so as not to separate Allerdale and Copeland.

Copeland Council's chief executive, Pat Graham, outlined to the committee that there is a clear preference among Cumbria's district councils for two unitary authorities, each covering part of the county, though there is not consensus on where the division should be.

A unitary authority is responsible for providing all the public-facing services in an area. This is unlike Cumbria's current model, in which some services are provided by district councils, and others by Cumbria County Council.

Mrs Graham added that changes would help improve the financial sustainability of local authorities.

"In the current model, there are several tens of millions of savings needed to be made," she said.

Mrs Graham added that by moving towards a unitary structure, Cumbria can "create efficiencies rather than cuts".