Concerns have been expressed over the speed at which authorities in Cumbria are being asked by Government to consider options for reforming politics in the county.

Allerdale council met on Monday to consider the opportunity put before local authorities in Cumbria by Government, for a radical shake-up of how its politics work.

Westminster has requested proposals for making alterations to the county’s council structure, with a rapidly approaching deadline of December 9 for submissions to be presented.

A number of Labour Party and independent councillors voiced concerns over the speed with which this process is taking place.

Labour’s Alan Smith expressed concern over what he described as a lack of engagement between the council’s executive and other councillors, the general public or stakeholders.

“It is morally wrong at this present time to carry on with this exercise,” he said.

“It gives little comfort out there to see something being steam-rolled through.”

He added that the council should wait until the publication of the Government’s more detailed strategy on local government reform, slated to appear this coming spring.

Conservative councillor Marion Fitzgerald said that the momentum behind local government reform in Cumbria, in which the county’s six other councils are participating, meant that not engaging in the process now would risk Allerdale being left behind.

“If we don’t participate in this process, we could end up having something imposed on us that we had no say in,” she said.

Mr Smith put before the council a motion calling for Allerdale Council to convey to Westminster that consideration of local government reform in Cumbria should be delayed until after the publication of the Government’s more detailed strategy on the issue.

It was initially planned for publication this autumn.

Independent councillor Paul Scott, who backed Coun Smith’s motion which was passed with 28 votes in favour over 16 against, said he believed the delay was understandable given the disruption caused by Covid-19.

However, he said the magnitude of the issue justified more engagement between the council’s leadership and council members.

“We have seen the deputy leader trigger processes that may see Allerdale wiped off the map,” he said.

“Agree or disagree with restructure, the manner in which this council has been treated is in my opinion morally wrong. Before it was triggered, this council should have had a say.”

Allerdale’s deputy leader Mike Johnson said Monday’s meeting was held at his request, after “weeks” of listening to the views of Allerdale members “across the political spectrum.”

He said it was vital that the council capitalised on the opportunity before it, given the advantages a more streamlined council structure would bring Allerdale.

“The issue of local government reorganisation is an opportunity to address many of the challenges we face as a council, and the area faces as a whole,” he said.

“It would have happened, whether we chose to participate or not. Every council in Cumbria has submitted an initial proposal.

“The next few years will be the most difficult our economy has ever faced, the most difficult our area has ever faced.

“We need to give ourselves the best chance to face these problems.

“We are already trying to play catch-up, we can’t risk falling further behind.”