Unitary council and elected mayor plan for East Lancashire branded 'crazy'

Liberal Democrats in Pendle have vowed to fight tooth and nail against the “crazy plan” put forward at a closed-doors meeting by the leader and deputy leader of Lancashire County Council to carry out a complete reorganisation of local councils in Lancashire within the next 12 months.
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At a behind-closed-doors meeting on Tuesday Lancashire County Council decided to submit a bid to create three sprawling mega “unitary” councils in the county, including one that would cover "Greater Blackburn" comprising all of East Lancashire apart from the Ribble Valley, which would come under "Greater Blackpool".

Under the plan, the 131-year-old county council would itself be abolished, along with all 12 district authorities and the two standalone councils in Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen. There would in addition be an elected mayor for the whole of the area who would have overall control.

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In response, Pendle Lib Dems are calling on Pendle's Conservative MP Andrew Stephenson to “put a stop to this completely stupid proposal”.

Burnley Town HallBurnley Town Hall
Burnley Town Hall

Pendle’s Liberal Democrat group leader David Whipp (who is also deputy leader of Pendle Council and leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Lancashire County Council, said: “If the Tories think they can just force this through under the cover of the COVID-19 crisis, they are mistaken.

"This plan for Mega Unitary Government is a mug’s game and we most people will be horrified. We will fight it tooth and nail.

“If this is approved, local people will lose control of local services as existing boroughs such as Pendle, Burnley and Ribble Valley are closed down overnight and decisions taken in town halls many miles away.

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"It's clear that Geoff Driver, the leader of the county council, is determined to drive through his agenda and create a supremo role of a so-called Lancashire Mayor that'll concentrate power into the hands of a single person.

“We are calling on Pendle’s MP Andrew Stephenson to put a stop to this completely stupid proposal."

Liberal Democrat peer Tony Greaves who is also a Pendle councillor in Colne, said: “Residents in Lancashire and the rest of the country are facing the worst crisis since the Second World War.

"What about dealing with COVID-19 and the economic crisis, rather than taking up everyone’s energy and time with a reorganisation that will itself cost millions of pounds? Putting everyone’s jobs at risk in a huge shake-up is hardly the best way to keep up their morale at this time.

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“This is a calamity for local residents and it means the end of local democracy.”

It is believed that ministers would like to see any new unitary councils in place by May 2022, when elections to the freshly-created authorities would take place. That would mean extending the four-year term of the current crop of county councillors for a further 12 months.