Lancashire looks set to press ahead with local ‘powerhouse’ bid

COMBINED BID: County Hall, Preston
COMBINED BID: County Hall, Preston

Lancashire councils look set to push ahead with a bid to create their own local government ‘powerhouse’.

The leader of Lancashire County Council has confirmed that 15 councils are looking to combine together – Lancashire County, 12 borough councils, and the two unitary councils of Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen on key initiatives.

Coun Jennifer Mein

Coun Jennifer Mein

County Coun Jennifer Mein made the announcement after Tory councillor Alan Schofield asked what was delaying the creation of a combined authority at a council meeting.

Comparing the Red Rose County to Yorkshire, which he noted was a “front runner” in bidding rounds to Whitehall for devolved power, he asked during the full council’s Question Time: “Can the leader please update members on any real progress towards a Lancashire combined authority?”

Coun Mein said in the ‘shires’, other front runners included Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire which had been in discussions with the Treasury very recently, but she noted: “They are not anywhere near the size of Lancashire.

“We’ve to make sure our proposal is right for Lancashire and right for its 15 constituent parties. We want to get a credible bid.”

She said every constituent council would be discussing the proposal at their December meetings and added: “We’ll recommend a combined authority as the best option for Lancashire.”

Many areas have submitted bids in the first round. But Coun Mein predicted the county had a powerful case to present to the government with economic growth through such initiatives as the LEP (Lancashire Enterprise Partnership), close links to Liverpool and Manchester, good provision of superfast broadband, the City Deal, good digital health and business support.

Councils would be discussing proposals in November and December and should go out to public consultation in January and February.

If there is agreement a bid could be made in the new year.

After the meeting Coun. Mein said individual councils would still have their own autonomy but it would mean they would work together on bigger strategic issues such as economic development, housing, job creation, transport and skills provision.

This would give the region a stronger voice and enable longer term planning and funding to be agreed to benefit the county.