A trio of council leaders have made a strong pitch for greater powers to be handed to the Morecambe Bay region – but have pulled up short of explicitly demanding it should become a new local authority.

The leaders of Lancaster City Council, South Lakeland District Council and Barrow Borough Council have written to communities and local government secretary Robert Jenrick to stress that the region’s strong economic, business, education and family ties are carefully considered as part of any local government reorganisation and devolution of powers.

The three councils have already forged a strong partnership through the Lancaster and South Cumbria Economic Region (LSCER) initiative, which, as in-Cumbria exclusively revealed following its launch last year, has an ambition to submit a Growth Deal bid for funding to boost the region’s fortunes.

The LSCER has already secured Arts Council Cultural Compact status for the Morecambe Bay region, which aims to untap the social and economic potential of culture and the arts.

The three council leaders said the partnership had the “potential to go further” and expressed concern that the current options being discussed around devolution and local authority reorganisation had been based around the existing boundaries of Cumbria and Lancashire.

Councillor Dr Erica Lewis, leader of Lancaster City Council, said these options “do not necessarily reflect the realities of our community”.

“I’m a strong advocate of further devolution to the regions,” she said.

“There is a strong natural community around Morecambe Bay based on geography, community, family ties, economic and educational links, which have wide potential to be strengthened even further.

“In the event that the Government decides to consider options for local government organisation and devolution in Lancashire and Cumbria, I would like these natural links to be recognised.

“Options that cross the county boundaries should not simply be dismissed because of arbitrary, and quite new, lines on a map. We should embrace the opportunity to devolve power, redistribute resources and deepen democracy.”

Borrow Borough Council’s leader, Cllr Ann Thomson, said the cross-border collaboration made it a “natural fit” for more powers.

“There is so much potential across our area – innovation exists here at every turn and corner,” she said.

“We need to look for new ways to optimise the opportunities we have for the future. These should not be restricted by a border on a map.”

Leader of South Lakeland District Council, Cllr Giles Archibald argued that Morecambe Bay was already a functioning economic area with strengths in energy, advanced manufacturing, digital technologies, life sciences, health innovation, higher education, culture and tourism.

“There are many critical issues we want to address, such as rising levels of poverty, climate change, biodiversity loss and affordable housing shortages and health inequalities,” he said.

“Given our current excellent collaboration it makes entire sense to work with Barrow and Lancaster on these and other important issues across all public services, based on locality and place.

“If an alternative organisational structure attracts additional resources or in some other way, we can make it easier for us to tackle the concerns of our residents, then of course we will actively consider it.”

At the launch of LSCER at Lancaster University in June last year, the leaders and chief executive of the three councils were asked if the initiative was a precursor to a Morecambe Bay local authority.

Cllr Lewis appeared to be the most open to the idea, saying she would like to have a proactive plan in place rather than an enforced one.

Barrow and South Lakeland council chiefs were more coy on the suggestion, stressing that LSCER was “not about creating another tier of local government” or superseding other organisations including Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and Transport for the North.

in-Cumbria understands the letter to the communities and local government is part of a process where the councils seek an invitation to present its proposals rather than making an immediate demand.

And the councils are yet to make a definitive decision on the shape of its collaboration – repeating calls for residents and businesses to put forward their opinions on any structure to help tackle pressing issues, such as skills and transport.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership - which has demanded 100 per cent devolution over decision making and funding across the North - said: “This is an area with plenty of potential."