Council plan

Our council plan, including the challenges we face, our key priorities, and how we aim to achieve them.

Westmorland and Furness Council is a brand-new council. This provides a huge opportunity to create a fresh vision for our communities and residents, and work with you to deliver on that vision.

We are an ambitious council, and we will place people at the centre of everything we do as we look to deliver the best possible outcomes. We are ambitious for our communities too and will work to enable all our villages and towns to thrive; and for our residents to lead healthy, happy lives.

Our natural environment provides opportunities for improving health and wellbeing and we will work hard to maximise those opportunities and to ensure that we protect our natural resources, striving to become carbon net zero and addressing biodiversity loss.

Most importantly we are committed to working to ensure that Westmorland and Furness is a great place to live, work and thrive.

Councillor Jonathan Brook
Leader of Westmorland and Furness Shadow Authority

The Council Plan is a summary of our vision, priorities and values:


This is the Council Plan for the new Westmorland and Furness Council, which will come into being on 1 April 2023.

It sets out the council’s vision, values and priorities. It will guide the council through the transition from the four current councils which provide services in the Westmorland and Furness Council area and a period of transformation over the next five years. The plan is about delivering the best for our residents, customers, and communities, in partnership with you.

The Plan also sets out how we will work. Fundamental to this is being a council that will listen to you and put you at the heart of everything the council does.

It is not a detailed plan of everything the council will do to achieve our vision for the area. That will be explained in our Council Plan Delivery Plan and Performance Management Framework which will sit alongside, explaining the action we will take and how we will know if we are succeeding.

The plan will be regularly reviewed and updated.

About Westmorland and Furness

Westmorland and Furness in numbers:

  • area, 3,754 Km2
  • area within National Parks, 1,900 Km2
  • population, 225,000
  • living in rural areas, 34,000 (estimated)
  • largest town, Barrow, population 55,000
  • ageing population (65 plus) in 2020, 59,400
  • ageing population (65 plus) projected 2040, 75,800
  • working age population, 123,777
  • primary schools, 122
  • secondary schools, 20
  • special schools, 3
  • businesses and jobs, 11,815 businesses providing 114,000 jobs

Westmorland and Furness is a special place. On our coast is Barrow-in-Furness, a busy shipbuilding town and port with cutting edge sub-sea technology industries, while inland South Lakeland and Eden have a rural, land-based economy with a strong visitor and cultural economy.

Every town, village and hamlet has its own unique community; welcoming, proud and resilient with ambitions for the future. Almost all have a town council, a parish council or a parish meeting which gives them a local voice.

Westmorland and Furness has national transport routes within its boundaries with the M6 and West Coast Main Line running north to south and the A66 and A590 running east to west.

About your new council

Westmorland and Furness Council is England’s third largest unitary authority by geographical area. We are committed to building strong links with parish and town councils, local community groups and other organisations.

Your council:

  • parishes, 136
  • wards, 33
  • town councils, 9
  • parish councils, 107
  • unitary Councillors, 65

Challenges and opportunities

There will be challenges and opportunities for Westmorland and Furness, locally and nationally.

Our future well-being and prosperity are affected by what happens in the rest of England, the UK and internationally. We will ensure that we are best placed to take advantage of funding opportunities, react positively to change and influence Government policy - both by ourselves and in partnership with others.


Government forecast population change 2021 to 2041
Population type 2021 2041
Total population 225,385 227,977
Working age population (19 to 64) 123,777 111,488
Children and young people 42,255 40,859
65 plus 59,533 75,670
Population challenges and opportunities
Population segment Population data
Children in need 1,054
Children looked after 276
Special education needs (SEN) support 3,732
People in residential nursing care 1,180
Receiving home care 1,695
Child poverty 11.7%
Ethnicity 6.8% schoolchildren from an ethnic minority
Not in education, employment or training 169 (16 to 17 year-olds)
Gross disposable household income Average (mean) for Westmorland and Furness £21,251, £24,303 in SLDC, £21,250 in Eden, £18,202 in Barrow
Number of second homes Total 5,441 - Barrow 362; Eden 1,278; SLDC 3,801
Holiday lets Total 4,193 - Barrow 61, Eden 1,261, South Lakeland 2,871

Sparsity of population

We are England’s most sparsely populated local authority area. This presents challenges in terms of sustaining and delivering services, public transport, and connectivity.

Our environment, including natural resources and landscape, offers opportunities for the economy, for people, for the climate and for nature conservation.

We will prioritise innovation and continuous improvement as we look to deliver services to our sparsely populated communities. We recognise that transport plays a vital role in providing access to health services, education and employment, particularly in rural locations.

Population data
Area People per square kilometre
Westmorland and Furness 60
Eden 25
Barrow 864
South Lakeland 68

Economy and culture

The future of Westmorland and Furness depends on a strong economy which generates wealth and high quality jobs and sustains services. That growth must be inclusive, so it benefits all, and sustainable, so its benefits to people and to the environment are long lasting.

Westmorland and Furness has a strong vibrant and diverse economy driven by cutting edge advanced manufacturing, tourism, agriculture and food production. We have a growing cluster of creative industries which thrive on the inspiration of our environment and our excellent artistic and cultural institutions. We also have strengths in environmental technologies. We have strong higher and further education.
This all adds up to an economy which offers many opportunities for our people to thrive, for our businesses to grow and adapt, for new businesses to start up and for businesses and people to bring their skills and talents to Westmorland and Furness.

It is important that there are enough people of working age to support our economy and deliver services. So we will work to help key sectors to recruit and retain staff and seek to enable and encourage young people and families to live and thrive in our area. We will work to improve transport and electronic connections. We will support new business creation and support the cultural economy to thrive.

Business sector data
Sector Businesses Gross value added £m Employment
Agriculture, Mining, Forestry utilities 2,490 373 9,050
Manufacturing 625 1,468 17,000
Construction 1,515 257 5,000
Retail and Wholesale 1,485 574 20,000
Food and Accommodation 1,125 252 16,000
Real Estate 355 874 2,000
Professional Services 1,340 142 6,000
Health and Social Work 335 582 12,000
Art and Recreation 265 50 2,500
All Businesses 11,815 5,706 114,000

Health and wellbeing

Westmorland and Furness Council has a role to create the conditions to help residents to be healthy and well throughout their lives. Where this isn’t possible, we are committed to providing the right support at the right time, in the right way. We will maximise the use of our natural environment and support wellbeing by making it easier and safer to walk, cycle and travel in environmentally sustainable ways.

Older people bring skills and experience and are also the foundation of our voluntary sector and much community activity. People are living longer and doing more. However, Westmorland and Furness has an ageing population and declining workforce. This presents challenges, not least in the adult social care system.

We will look at the wider causes of ill health, such as poor housing, addressing the connections between poverty and inequality through our priorities of driving inclusive economic growth, managing demographic change, tackling climate change and supporting community empowerment.
This will be essential to tackling the rising cost of living which is driving an increase in demand for services. Adult services, children’s services and public health will be critical to addressing inequality and deprivation challenges.

We will support people to have independent, healthy lives and to achieve their full potential, without fear of prejudice or discrimination.

Health and well being data:

  • deprivation; 7.9% of the council area is amongst the 10% most deprived areas in England
  • health deprivation; 17% of the council area is in the worst 10% in England for health deprivation
  • life limiting long-term illness; 65+ with life limiting long term illness whose day-to-day activities are limited a lot 12,728. 2040 prediction: 17,135
Life expectancy, at birth data
Sex Barrow Eden South Lakeland England
Female 79.5 86.2 84.3 82.8
Male 75.9 81.2 79.2 78.7


Housing is a major issue. We need more, affordable, quality housing so that local families can build a life here and new people can be attracted to relocate.

Much of the existing housing stock presents challenges and gives rise to rural and urban fuel poverty and health issues. These challenges have consequences for young people and families being able buy a home.

Housing is also under pressure from second homes and holiday lets, with serious consequences for small rural communities. We are committed to building affordable, high specification energy efficient homes.

We will support the provision of housing and create employment opportunities to encourage the young to stay and to attract young families and skilled people; welcoming people from all communities to build their lives here.

Median house prices:

  • Barrow, £138,000
  • Eden, £225,250
  • South Lakeland, £265,000

Median annual income (workplace based):

  • Barrow, £36,886
  • Eden, £27,198
  • South Lakeland, £26,193

Affordability ratio:

  • Barrow, 3.74
  • Eden, 8.39
  • South Lakeland, 10.12

On housing waiting list (Cumbria Choice):

  • Barrow, 2,544
  • Eden, 1,030
  • South Lakeland, 3,081
  • Westmorland and Furness, 6,655

Pre 1900 homes:

  • Barrow, 8,230 (24%)
  • Eden, 9,240 (34%)
  • South Lakeland, 15,790 (29%)
  • Westmorland and Furness, 22,260 (29%)

Empty homes:

  • Barrow, 995 (3%)
  • Eden, 587 (2%)
  • South Lakeland, 900 (2%)
  • Westmorland and Furness, 2,482 (2%)

Climate change

Climate change and biodiversity loss are global issues, impacting everyone.

Westmorland and Furness Council will be at the forefront of tackling climate change and the challenges it presents. We will provide leadership in the drive to become carbon net zero, including supporting and promoting environmentally friendly forms of travel such as making it easier and safer to walk and cycle in our area. We will also work closely with local people and partners to improve our roads and transport.

We have a vital role in preparing our communities for severe weather events including flooding, this is essential for communities now and in the future.

The council will look to address biodiversity loss through enhancing natural habitats, encouraging sustainable land-use and land management. Leading the way to help reduce the loss of species, improve green spaces, and support a more sustainable local food system.

Climate event data
Climate event Effect
Storm Desmond in 2015 2,752 Residential properties flooded in Westmorland and Furness in
Storm Desmond in 2015 522 Business properties flooded
Biodiversity loss Almost half of Britain’s natural bio-diversity has disappeared over the centuries. UK’s biodiversity intactness is estimated at 53% - 90% is considered a safe limit


The strength of Westmorland and Furness is in its people; our residents; community groups and organisations; town and parish councils.

We have numerous community groups from choirs to football clubs, to mental health support groups to local Pride groups, which are all addressing community needs. Our role is to enable these groups and many others to flourish and thrive and take control of the things that need doing to make our communities great places to live, work and thrive. We want to listen and work with you to see how we can do more to support this, even if that means getting out of the way.

Our network of 146 parishes is the foundation of a long tradition of working with communities, empowering them to develop local solutions to local problems. We will engage with communities in developing our plans and strategies, encourage neighbourhood and community-led plans and asset-based regeneration.

The creation of a new council gives us a fresh opportunity to ensure that we are close to the residents and businesses that we serve. We will build strong links with parish and town councils, local community groups and other organisations. We will strengthen the local planning process to ensure that residents are more involved and can have their say. We are committed to devolving power, decision making and finances to our local areas and we will keep local government local by retaining a visible presence in our towns. We are committed to being a council that listens to you and puts you, at the heart of everything the council does.

Number of Voluntary Community Sector (VCS) groups:

  • 1,297 registered third sector organisations, and a similar number of small community groups

Our Vision

Our vision for Westmorland and Furness is to be 'a great place to live, work and thrive'.

A great place to live


  • local and community leadership enabling a voice for all
  • housing for all making best use of previously used land and existing buildings
  • empowered places – towns and countryside
  • welcoming, proud and resilient communities
  • a green and biodiverse environment
  • opportunities for children and young people to live healthy, happy lives
  • support for those that need it, when they need it

A great place to work


  • opportunities for jobs, learning, skills and enterprise
  • a sustainable, inclusive, diverse, economy
  • a growing work force and high quality jobs
  • support to encourage business creation
  • improved infrastructure and connectivity

A great place to thrive


  • opportunities for education, health, and wellbeing
  • excellent walking and cycling routes
  • a great and diverse visitor offer in our towns and countryside
  • thriving cultural economy
  • support for all to start well, live well and age well
  • holistic early intervention to support people in need

Our priorities as a council

For people

Supporting active, healthy happy lives for young and old:

  • our aim is ensuring that people are healthy, happy, active, and able to lead fulfilling independent lives, thriving in their communities
  • we will support everyone to start well, live well and age well. We will maximise the potential of our natural environment to provide open spaces for activity and recreation and improve footpaths and cycle routes. We are ambitious for all our children and young people; committed to listening to their aspirations and showing them how much we care.

Supporting people in need and reducing inequality:

  • we are committed to reducing inequality in Westmorland and Furness
  • we will seek to reduce some wide inequalities in health outcomes. This means tackling the wider determinants of health such as access to good quality housing, jobs, training and local environmental quality and enabling everyone to reach their full potential.
  • we are committed to tackling discrimination actively in all its forms. We will ensure that our young people and adults are protected from harm. Safeguarding and supporting them to ensure they lead fulfilling independent lives.
  • we will work closely with all schools to ensure that young people have enough opportunities to access to the best education.
  • we will also work hard to ensure that those who deliver care and the people who are in need of care will be supported to the best of our ability to help empower them to achieve their ambitions

For the climate

Providing leadership in the drive to become carbon net zero:

  • we care about the climate and the impact climate change is having on everyone
  • Westmorland and Furness Council is working hard to ensure that the area we serve becomes carbon net zero by 2037, and our organisation, as soon as possible
  • we will address biodiversity loss by encouraging better land management, habitat creation, tree planting and net biodiversity gain in new housing developments

For communities

Confident, empowered, resilient communities:

  • the council wants will work closely with the residents and businesses it serves to enable them to shape their own destiny and thrive
  • building strong links with parish and town councils and keeping local service centres
  • effective local representation and a thriving voluntary and third sector are critical

For the economy and culture

Sustainable, inclusive, economic growth:

  • Sustainable, inclusive economic growth is essential to deliver high quality jobs
  • This is essential in our drive to support the delivery of services which underpin our quality of life, as well as helping us retain our young people and attract investment and skilled people
  • We will support new business creation and actively support the cultural economy to thrive.

For our customers

At the heart of everything we do:

  • we care about you and listening to you, we will put you at the heart of everything we do
  • customers and communities’ needs are at the heart of designing our services, with customers able to access services and information easily using a channel of their choice

For our workforce

Confident, empowered, and inclusive workforce:

  • we value individuals and are committed to leading and empowering our workforce to be innovative, engaged and customer focussed
  • we will support employee wellbeing, nurture talent, and create a healthy working environment that enables everyone to fulfil their potential and a place where the whole workforce is focussed on delivering great services

Our Values

Westmorland and Furness Council cares and believes everyone matters. We will empower and inspire communities to thrive.

These are our values which underpin everything we do and will guide us in delivering our vision. Being a caring council is the golden thread that will run through everything we do, and this is supported by our values.

We are a caring council that cares about you, and about putting your health and wellbeing at the forefront.

We will support those that need it and empower all to live independent and fulfilling lives.

A caring council

  • ambitious - we are ambitious for everyone. We will focus on identifying and delivering the outcomes that our communities want to see. We will support our workforce to innovatively transform services for the better, enabling residents and visitors to have healthy, happy lives.
  • inclusive - we will be an inclusive council and will work collectively with partners to challenge each other to improve diversity and eliminate all forms of discrimination in our organisations and through local leadership increase participation in local decision making within underrepresented communities
  • outcome focused -we are outcome focused and we will focus on identifying and leading the delivery of the changes that our communities want to see
  • collaborative - We will work with partners, communities, and residents to deliver the best outcomes for all
  • responsible - we are responsible, socially, environmentally, and financially. Providing leadership in the drive to become carbon neutral and delivering value for money in everything we do. We will make the best and most efficient use of our resources, while making sustainable decisions and striving to deliver on our promises to you
  • needs-led - we will intervene early to prevent harm, act in an equitable way leaving no-one behind, and enable all to ask for help in order to gain access to the right service, in the right place at the right time
  • ecologically aware - we will provide leadership in the drive to become carbon net zero and sustainable


This Council Plan provides the framework for Westmorland and Furness Council to guide its transformation over the next five years.

To achieve the vision and priorities laid out in this document we will ensure that our aspirations and ambitions are reflected in our service and operational plans so that everyone in Westmorland and Furness Council is focused on what they need to deliver and how their work contributes to achieving the council’s ambitions.

We will also have a robust performance management framework to monitor our delivery and ensure we are achieving the right outcomes for the people and communities we serve.

Plan in print

Paper versions of the plan are available at our offices in Barrow, Penrith and Kendal

You can request a PDF copy of the 'print at home' paper version by emailing: