Ever since first being elected as MP for Carlisle and indeed, before then, I have talked about the need for local Government reform in Cumbria, writes John Stevenson.

I’ll admit it isn’t the sexiest of political projects. It’s not a shiny new hospital to cut a ribbon for or a new train line to ride on. But it is an issue that actually affects us all, on a pretty much daily basis.

Our local councils provide the day-to-day services we rely on as communities. They are responsible for roads, schools, and much more.

These are important functions and it is widely accepted that Cumbria’s council structures need reform, yet there has never been any consensus about what such change should look like.

This procrastinating has meant that Cumbria has missed out on important transfers of powers – and cash – that other parts of the North have seen.

There is now, I believe, a real opportunity for our county to catch up and embrace structural change. The alternative could mean we get left behind, miss out on a better structure of local government, and some substantial funding.

The new Government is quite clear; they want to encourage unitarisation and metro mayors, particularly in the north.

So how could this work for Cumbria? At the moment we have seven councils and 368 councillors – all for a population of just 500,000. However, we are also a region with particular geographical considerations.

I think two much more powerful councils would be the appropriate structure – on top of which a metro mayor could sit. This would lead to a simplification of the power structures, saving millions of pounds, and making our local government much more effective and, as a result, much more accountable.

Cumbria would have two distinct councils with very clear responsibilities for the people they serve.

At the same time, strategic matters for the Cumbria area would be dealt with by an elected mayor.

This would give Cumbria a figurehead who could represent the county in discussions, debates, and negotiations with the national Government, as well as other regional players.

The precise details of how this could happen can be worked out.

How many councillors we have, where the borders of the two councils are drawn – all this is up for debate.

But there has to be an outcome. For too long, vested interests in Cumbria, unwilling to see any change occur for fear that they lose power, have ground any such talks to a halt.

The Government has been clear that it is up to Cumbria to present suggestions to them. This means we need council leadership in our county to step up to the plate. It will mean compromise and creativity – but I am confident that we, from all sides of the political divides, can work together to achieve this.

Because the alternative is that, yet again, we miss out on important reforms that are transforming the rest of the North. And I think we deserve better than that.