Combined authority in Lancashire edges closer as detailed plans are sent to government

Combined authority in Lancashire edges closer as detailed plans are sent to government

by Tom Martin (September 2020)

THE creation of a combined authority and the dismantling of West Lancashire Borough Council has edged closer after detailed plans were sent to the government.

The leader of Lancashire County Council, Geoff Driver, has written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to provide further information about a proposal to restructure local government in Lancashire.

However, it comes in the same week that West Lancs MP Rosie Cooper said she wouldn’t support the idea after voicing her concerns that Ormskirk and Skelmersdale residents “could be left behind.” This is echoed by West Lancs Borough Council Leader Ian Moran, who has previously said he has doubts “whether it will help West Lancs residents or the businesses.”

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. Turn to p5

From page 3

The county would be carved up into three ‘unitary’ councils covering central and southern parts of the county (Preston, South Ribble, Chorley and West Lancashire), a broad western and northern area (Blackpool, Wyre, Fylde, Lancaster and Ribble Valley) and the east (Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Rossendale, Hyndburn and Pendle).

The new combined authority would then come with an elected mayor, and Cllr Driver believes it represents a ‘once-in-a-generation’ chance to transform the county.

The idea was initially submitted to the Government in July, and since then work has taken place on the strategic case to provide more information about the proposal.

Cllr Driver is now requesting that Government officials enter into a dialogue about the plans at the earliest opportunity so a partnership can be created to develop and consult with all stakeholders on a full business case and timetable for implementation.

Cllr Driver said: “I remain firmly of the view that to deliver on our ambitious recovery and levelling up plans, we need to transition to a three unitary and Mayoral Combined Authority model, replacing our complex arrangement of fifteen councils.

Ambitions

“Closer working will allow for a coherent and strategic focus on delivering our significant ambitions.

“The proposal also guards against fragmentation in key service areas such as Children's and Adult Services."

MP Cooper said she has written to the Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick to express her concern. She said: “I agree that the current structure of local government here in Lancashire and West Lancashire is most certainly underperforming and failing my West Lancashire constituents, so I absolutely support the view that some reorganisation is necessary, but this can not and must not be at the expense of local decision making, local views and local services.

“Any local government reorganisation for West Lancashire which would lead to any joining or merging with Preston would not have my support or that of my West Lancashire constituents, indeed it has my outright objection.

“Leaders of West Lancashire, Chorley and South Ribble have written to the Secretary of State stating their intention to support work to develop a business case on this footprint, this is something I could consider more positively as I would the inclusion of Southport in a future plan.”

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