Lancashire devolution deal proposal published as part of Chancellor's autumn statement
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The blueprint for bringing more powers and cash under the county’s control has been published as part of the Chancellor’s autumn statement.
If ultimately approved by Lancashire’s three top-tier councils - the county council and the local authorities for Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen - it would see the creation of a new Lancashire combined county authority (CCA), an outcome which the trio have been pursuing since earlier this year.
There would be no changes to any of the existing local government structures, with all 15 Lancashire councils continuing to exist in their current form.
Lancashire County Council leader Phillippa Williamson has previously pledged that district councils like Preston, Wyre, Lancaster and Burnley will have a voice within the new CCA - with two district leaders set to form part of it.
In a statement, the Treasury said: “This historic deal marks a new devolution agreement between the government and the local authorities of Lancashire, comprising...Lancashire County Council, Blackpool Council and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.
“The devolution deal transfers new powers and funding to the Lancashire CCA to support businesses and residents across Lancashire, alongside £20 million of capital funding to invest in local priorities (subject to business cases). The deal will also enable the Lancashire CCA to take responsibility for services that are best delivered at a strategic level, giving local leaders more control and influence over the levers of local growth, including devolution of the adult education budget.
“This agreement is subject to ratification by those councils, and to the statutory requirements for making the secondary legislation implementing the provisions of the deal. These statutory requirements include those councils consenting to the legislation and Parliament approving it. Once that legislation is made the devolution deal will be confirmed.”
Levelling Up Minister Jacob Young MP said: “I am delighted to agree this Level 2 devolution deal with Lancashire, which will bring more funding and powers out of Whitehall into the hands of communities in Lancashire.
"Lancashire has a long tradition of innovation and entrepreneurship, which this deal will build on to unlock the economic potential of the whole area.”
Councillor Phillippa Williamson, Leader of Lancashire County Council, said: "The announcement by the Government today is amazing news, and shows the faith the Secretary of State Michael Gove and Levelling Up Minister Jacob Young have in our plans.
"Alongside my fellow leaders, I truly believe the time is now for a devolution deal for Lancashire.
"We want to ensure our residents benefit from a boost in funding as well as extra powers to tackle the issues that matter most to the people of Lancashire.
"This proposed deal would help us to drive regeneration in our town and city centres, support new jobs in growing industries such as low carbon technologies, cyber security and energy, and make sure we have the right skills to take advantage of these opportunities.
"It would also enable greater co-ordination of our collective expertise, priorities and investment in our transport infrastructure to ensure that it meets the needs of people across the region.
"This announcement is a hugely significant milestone in our devolution journey and signifies a really crucial step forward."
Councillor Phil Riley, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “It’s a real triumph for everyone involved to have finally made a start on the devolution of powers to Lancashire after many false starts.
“This will give Lancashire a voice both nationally and, in the North West, allowing the region to start to compete on an even playing field with our neighbours in Manchester and Liverpool.
“We will always be ambitious - the residents of Blackburn with Darwen rightly expect that from their council - and we want to use the new devolved powers to make sure nobody gets left behind in our two towns and across Lancashire.
“This deal won’t change people’s lives overnight but it’s a really positive step in the right direction and, hopefully, the beginning of a story where more powers can be devolved from Westminster to Lancashire.
“At their best, councils are a force for good and we look forward to using our local knowledge to make sure any investment has the biggest and most positive impact for our residents.”
Councillor Lynn Williams, Leader of Blackpool Council, said: "The people of Blackpool and Lancashire deserve to benefit from devolution. For too long we have watched neighbouring areas benefit, whilst our county has missed out.
“I am pleased that we can now take this next step forward in securing a deal that will provide tangible benefits and lasting change for our residents and businesses.
“By giving Lancashire more control over its own destiny, we can prioritise resource and investment so that it truly meets our needs.
“As the Government has made clear, devolution is a long-term process and this is a positive start. It is my hope that this deal will give us a platform to secure more powers and resource for our communities into the future.”
DESTINATION DEVOLUTION: HOW DID WE GET HERE?
June 2016 - Lancashire forms a shadow combined authority, chaired by then Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn, with Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley as vice-chair. It is seen as the first step on the road to devolution, via closer co-operation between the county’s 15 councils - but Wyre Council declines to join over disquiet about the prospect of an elected mayor, seen as a likely requirement of any deal.
February 2017 - Fylde Council walks away from the shadow combined authority, stating that there is not enough to be gained from a potential deal.
July 2017 - Ribble Valley Borough Council also withdraws over concern about an elected mayor and whether district authorities would have a veto in any future devolved arrangements.
September 2017 - Cllr Blackburn says that there is interest amongst Lancashire’s councils in a little-noticed pledge in the Conservative Party election manifesto suggesting that a mayor would no longer be a prerequisite of a devolution deal.
October 2017 - then Northern Powerhouse minister and Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry says it is not up to the government to “dictate” what a devolution deal for Lancashire should look like - and confirmed that a mayor would not be demanded.
2019 - the shadow combined authority is replaced by Lancashire leaders’ group, chaired by then Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver. All 15 councils are at the table for monthly meetings, which are not solely focused on devolution.
June 2020 - all 15 Lancashire leaders support “the principle” of exploring the formation of a combined authority with an elected mayor, who would have only “limited powers”. It was the first time there had been a unanimous decision on those issues. They also acknowledge that Lancashire’s complex council arrangements may need to be simplified if a combined authority is formed - known as “local government reorganisation”.
July 2020 - Preston City Council proposes to the government a merger with South Ribble, Chorley and West Lancashire - but just a day later, the latter three suggest a shake-up that excludes Preston.
September 2020 - Lancashire County Council proposes to government the abolition of all 15 local authorities in the county and their replacement with three ‘standalone councils covering Central Lancashire (based on the footprints of Preston, Chorley, South Ribble and West Lancashire councils), North West Lancashire (Blackpool, Fylde, Wyre, Lancaster and Ribble Valley) and East Pennine Lancashire (Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Rossendale, Hyndburn and Pendle).
July 2021 - then Prime Minister Boris Johnson promises to “rewrite the rule book” on devolution, seemingly offering places like Lancashire the chance to strike bespoke devolution deals with the government.
January 2022 - all 15 councils agreed the first detailed blueprint for devolution in the county, but now once again minus an elected mayor and local government reorganisation. Proposal for a £5.6bn transfer of funding to the county’s control.
February 2022 - Lancashire not named in a list of the next nine areas with which the government intends to pursue devolution discussions. The Levelling Up White Paper sets out three ‘levels’ of devolution deal - with the most extensive ‘level 3’ agreements requiring the creation of an elected mayor.
November 2022 - launch of “Lancashire 2050” vision, setting out key priorities for the county and seen as a springboard for devolution discussions
June 2023 - the government sets a turbocharged timetable for doing a deal with Lancashire, with the aim of forming a combined county authority (CCA) made up of the three top-tier councils: Lancashire County Council, Blackpool Council and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council. Discontent amongst some district leaders who claimed that they had been locked out of the process.
November 2023 - government publishes level 2 devolution proposal for Lanxcashire, which will now be subject to ratification by the top-tier councils and public consultation.