Lancashire continues to push for Combined Authority

Published February 24, 2017 at 15:24

Councils in Lancashire are waiting for the green light from Government to formally create a Combined Authority for the county as a decision to make the next step gets closer.

And leaders driving forward the proposals have said they will be pressing ahead despite the news that Fylde Council may be the second authority to pull out of the negotiations.

The 13 councils have been waiting for confirmation as to when an order can be laid in Parliament but pressure on civil servants to deliver the existing devolution deals means Lancashire will have to wait a few more weeks.

It is likely that the county will have to wait until the summer for progress to be made on the formal order, after originally expecting to move to formal Combined Authority status in April.

Councillor Simon Blackburn, Leader of Blackpool Council and Chair of the Shadow Combined Authority, said he was disappointed at the news but it was not unexpected;

“We’ve been working really hard here in Lancashire to get everyone together and pushing in the right direction. It is disappointing that we’ve been left waiting by the Government for news of when things will progress and we now face having to wait a little longer but it’s out of our hands. I wrote to the Secretary of State last month seeking reassurance of their support to progress a Lancashire Combined Authority and I am yet to receive a response.  We have been told that ministers are meeting this week to set out their position. We have been getting on with things in shadow form and have already received £550,000 worth of funding to help us make better use of public sector assets.”

The Chair and Vice-Chair of the shadow authority have met with key ministers and influential figures to highlight Lancashire’s progress and continued commitment to play a key role in the Northern Powerhouse.

Feedback has been positive with the Northern Powerhouse Minister, Andrew Percy MP, being very clear that a Combined Authority makes absolute sense for Lancashire and representatives from the shadow authority were in Manchester this week for the Northern Powerhouse conference.

The Leader of Fylde Council has indicated that they are now going to withdraw from the process and Cllr Simon Blackburn said he’d hope they would change their mind and that the delays aren’t helping;

“All the councils have been really supportive of the direction we are going but it’s inevitable that if the Government is delaying things that some people will start to question whether or not it’s going to happen. I think the Combined Authority and devolution deal are essential if we are going to be able to be serious about Lancashire being able to compete with the other major regions such as Manchester and Merseyside for investment and for us to take more control about what happens here in our proud county. It makes sense that if all the councils work more closely on issues that affect residents and businesses then it can only be benefit for those who live and work here. Fylde haven’t formally pulled out of the process as it will have to be a decision taken by the council and we will be seeking clarity from the ministers as to what impact it may have.”

The shadow combined authority will continue to press the Government to make progress on Lancashire’s proposals and once that happens the next steps are to get agreement from the council leaders to have an order laid before Parliament and this is based on the scheme of governance, which went out to public consultation last year.

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