Hopes of a unitary authority for Cumbria have failed to get out of the starting blocks with a council leader saying he is “frustrated” by a lack of progress.

County council leader Stewart Young wrote to the Government in December suggesting talks about cutting Cumbria’s seven councils to one or two to create a “unitary” authority.

But he did not receive a reply for two months, although James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Local Government, has responded to say he was “carefully considering the request”.

Cllr Young said: “I remain frustrated because the Government are refusing to grasp the nettle. It’s still in his in-tray. They should just do it because there is never going to be a consensus among everybody.

“There isn’t suddenly going to be a situation where all the district councils agree and all the six MPs of Cumbria agree.”

Cllr Young said: “It’s a bit like Brexit, they tell us what they are against but can’t tell us what they are in favour of. They all say they are not against unitaries but they don’t necessarily want one unitary.”

Cllr Young said it was “hard to know” what happened next in the issue and he awaited further guidance from the Government.

He said: “After 29th of March, the Secretary of State would have the right to intervene and impose it. He could say to an area ‘you are going to have to have some sort of unitary structure’. They are going to publish guidance to explain the circumstances under which they would do that but they haven’t published it yet. The longer it goes on, the longer we have to wait.”

Cumbrian Labour peer Roger Liddle has raised the issue in the House of Lords.

In the response, Mr Brokenshire said: “I am carefully considering your request to issue an invitation to develop a proposal for a unitary authority in Cumbria.

“The broader context here is that from March 2019, any proposal for local government restructuring to be considered under the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016 process will require unanimous consent from all councils in an area.

“Alternatively, I have said that I may issue a formal invitation for proposals, and have committed to set out in due course the specific circumstances under which I would do so.”