‘Time for Lancashire to start making a noise’

Blackpool
Blackpool

The Government wants to see the creation of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ to help the region compete with London.

Lancashire has to start making itself heard if it is to compete with northern cities for powers and responsibilities.

Simon Blackburn

Simon Blackburn

Politicians and business leaders claim the county is lagging behind others in terms of investment and control, and have slammed councils for failing to work together sooner.

The government has already been accused of leaving Lancashire out of its vision for the North West, which includes a four-lane smart motorway link on the M62 and a deep water container terminal in Liverpool.

As Chancellor George Osborne sets out his vision for the North, some say the only option is to create a combined authority, and to appoint an elected mayor so Lancashire is not left behind.

But others say an elected mayor would mean handing over power to one person, and would not be the solution to the county’s problems.

There can be no talk of an elected mayor for Lancashire

In Blackpool, leaders fear any kind of “Greater Lancashire” authority would see powers taken out of the hands of seaside residents, favouring a coastal alliance with towns sharing similar challenges.

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said Blackpool had become a unitary authority as it was felt Lancashire County Council could not pay enough attention to its “very specific needs”.

He said: “There can therefore be no talk of an elected mayor for Lancashire, or the formation of a “Greater Lancashire” authority which sees power taken out of the hands of Blackpudlians – but I’m not against negotiating around issues where there may be a common set of aims – education planning and strategic housing matters present themselves as obvious areas which bear further exploration.”

With cuts in local government grants leaving North West authorities desperately trying to find savings, it is clear action must be taken for Lancashire to punch its weight on the national stage.

Government chiefs say an elected mayor is the only way the county can be given devolved powers, but a divide has emerged among leaders, even within the same political party, about the way forward.

The Gazette is now calling on key players to put aside political differences and work together to secure control over jobs and services in the county, and ultimately take control of its own destiny.

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