Divide emerges on mayoral issue

Blackpool
Blackpool

While leaders across the county agree authorities must work together to a certain extent, a divide has emerged over the issue of an elected mayor.

Chancellor George Osborne has spelled out that only areas with an elected metro-mayor will be given control of transport, housing and skills, but chiefs within Lancashire can’t agree.

I think there are some good reasons as to why elected mayors are the way forward, not least that it would have a figurehead for the county who was able to be a very genuine champion

Some say it will create a directly accountable individual, while others believe it would put too much power into the hands of one person.

Frank McKenna, who this year returned to politics as a Labour councillor in West Lancashire, is among the advocates of a mayor.

He said: “I think there are some good reasons as to why elected mayors are the way forward, not least that it would have a figurehead for the county who was able to be a very genuine champion.

“I think it adds to the scrutiny and democratic accountability of that role because if you are going to have an official set of powers and resources it is incumbent on you to be transparent and that money has to be spent wisely.”

County Coun David Borrow said the county wanted the “whole shebang” of devolved powers, but said there was no desire for an elected mayor.

He added: “I can’t imagine any of the county areas wanting to sign up to a county mayor where one person is given a huge amount of power.

“I don’t think there’s any desire from the 15 councils in Lancashire to set up a combined authority with an elected mayor to run it.”

Ben Wallace, MP for Preston North and Wyre, said: “I think if you want to move to a new devolutionary settlement, the only option is a mayor.

“But will a mayor solve everything for Lancashire, the answer is no, what will work for Lancashire is people working together for Team Lancashire and being a welcome place for private and public service devolution.”

County Council leader Coun Jennifer Mein added: “To put all that power into the hands of one person seems a little bit odd.”