MORE than 200 councillors in Cumbria could be axed if the county’s seven councils are cut back, new figures show.

Cumbria has 368 councillors across seven councils but that could fall to less than 160 under a unitary authority, according to exploratory work by the county council.

Last month, the county council’s most senior committee – its cabinet - agreed to approach the Government for talks about reducing the number of councils to just one or two.

But the district councils have argued that they have saved £53 million in the last three years and more savings are planned in the years ahead.

They have said they are “disappointed” with the idea and the Government should not “intervene” by imposing a re-organisation of local government on the county.

Four years ago, it was estimated that if all of Cumbria’s council’s were reduced to one, savings of £28 million a year could be achieved.

But that figure has now been revised to £24 million. In 2015, cutting the number of councils back to two would result in savings of £16 million a year, but that figure too has been revised to £14 million.

Cumbria has a county council and six district councils serving Barrow, South Lakeland, Copeland, Allerdale, Carlisle and Eden.

Moves are afoot to change that to save money, reduce confusion among residents, streamline services, simplify the system and make millions more in savings after nearly a decade of Government cuts to town hall funding. Cumbria’s 266 town and parish councils would be unaffected by any proposal, but it could lead to hundreds of council job losses.

Five possible alternative options now look set to be explored with the Government, although the outcome is far from certain at this stage.

The matter rests in the hands of the Local Government secretary, James Brokenshire MP, who could order the Boundary Commission for England to start a review in Cumbria.

Barrow Borough Council has 32 councillors in its chamber, serving 13 different wards. In 2017-18, Barrow’s councillors cost more than £123,000 while staff costs accounted for £6.2 million.

In South Lakeland, the district council has 51 councillors, representing 18 different areas. Councillors cost around £265,000 with employee costs of around £14.5m.

Cumbria County Council is represented by 84 councillors which cost more than £1 million a year in allowances and expenses, while the authority employs around 6,000 staff.

Cumbria remains one of the few areas of the country to have a “two-tier” county and district council model still in place. More than 120 councils in England now only have a “single-tier” with places like Northumberland, Durham, Cornwall, Wiltshire and Shropshire, all switching to a unitary.