A top politician has written to leading councillors asking them to back his vision for the future governance of Cumbria.

Mike Starkie, elected mayor of Copeland, wants to scrap the county council and replace it with a combined authority made up of the district councils under an elected mayor of Cumbria.

He claims getting rid of the present two-tier system in favour of his preferred model would create an opportunity to forge ahead as a “united and cohesive force” with greater influence at a government level.

The move is intended to reduce “duplication” in areas such as planning while the proposed scrapping of the county council would reduce what Mayor Starkie called “an excessive number of councillors.”

Writing to the leaders of district councils in Cumbria, he said: “There is a need for local doorstep authorities who are on the ground working in their own district areas, who are aware of what residents want and need from their council.

“However, there is also a need to look at the bigger picture and with a strength in numbers approach, combine to approach the government with major and ambitious asks in respect of infrastructure, growth, jobs and improvements that only a Combined Authority can achieve.

“I appeal to all our leaders: we do not want to be left behind while other authorities push ahead with their shared ambitions.”

Under the plans, Allerdale, Carlisle, Copeland and Eden would form a single authority headed by an elected mayor.

The Combined Authority Cabinet would be made up of the Elected Mayor of Cumbria and the Leader and Deputy Leaders of each of the district councils as well as the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Social care would be removed as a local authority responsibility and integrated with the health authorities.

John Mallinson, leader of Carlisle City Council, agreed that the present two-tier system needed an overhaul and was prepared to consider Mayor Starkie’s proposals.

He also revealed he was in favour of the elected mayor model, describing it as “tried and tested” across the country.

He said: “We need change. The current two-tier system has served well in the past, but I think it’s getting passed its sell-by date.”

Coun Mallinson is opposed to a single unitary or combined authority but would rather see “north/south split”, because of Cumbria’s geography.

“I don’t think democracy will be served well by having a (single) unitary authority in an area as geographically huge and disparate as Cumbria,” he added.

Reacting to Mayor Starkie’s plans, Marion Fitzgerald, leader of Allerdale council, said: “As a council we are keen to support the best possible ways of governance for the people of Allerdale and wider Cumbria.

“Previous debates surrounding potential changes to the local government structure in the county were held prior to me becoming leader of the council, so I am therefore very keen to listen to and understand all the options available and welcome discussions with all parties.”