A while ago I wrote a column with my view on devolution and local government restructure, which I stand by – it was done with the right intentions for the community of Workington and West Cumbria; but I feel politics have yet again bypassed morality and decency.

The big question is “Why the rush?” In July leaders from some Cumbrian authorities instigated a process that could see borough/district councils wiped from the map for a new, bigger authority. This decision was taken in the middle of a worldwide pandemic with our residents struggling and local businesses closing.

Even minister Robert Jenrick has recently said: “Given the pressures our councils face this winter with the pandemic, I believe it would not be right at this time for them to further progress or focus on ideas of reform.”

The pandemic rightly necessitated resources across Whitehall being re-allocated to tackling Covid, and this must be Whitehall’s and town halls’ number one priority.

The question is why, when Mr Jenrick recognises the pressure being put on our councils at this time, have our leaders failed us? Our teams should be focused on delivering the very best support possible to our businesses and residents, not playing politics by planning reform for future governance. The time for change in governance will come but it should not be pushed forward at the risk of our county’s economy or health and wellbeing.

So should we dance to the Government’s tune? The process triggered by our leaders is complicated and disjointed. Government are pushing proposals to line up with the magical 300,000 residents per authority. Allerdale Northern Executive, along with the Mayor of Copeland, have a preferred option for Allerdale, Copeland and Carlisle, while Carlisle and Eden Councils’ preferred options are Carlisle, Eden and Allerdale. Because Barrow and South Lakes have submitted proposals involving Lancaster, this could mean we end up with Allerdale, Eden, Copeland and Carlisle forming one council.

Once all councils have submitted their preferred options it will be down to the Government which, if any, they choose. The key to all proposals is that all must have a good deal of public support, so I urge ALL residents, if asked to complete a survey, to be honest about what you believe is right, not only for Allerdale but West Cumbria. I have seen too many surveys that simply support their version for change and not necessarily the one the public wants or needs.

I supported Coun Alan Smith’s motion urging the Government to defer consideration of any responses, as I believe now is not the right time and we must wait for the White Paper. Public opinion should be tested before legislation is introduced. Why should Cumbria push ahead without having seen the White Paper?

We have a great opportunity to shape the future we want for West Cumbria, but we must resist such a proposal until we understand all the options and benefits that devolution brings. But paramount right now is Covid and keeping our loved ones safe.