Leaders ‘need to agree’

Simon Blackburn
Simon Blackburn

Local government across Lancashire is made up of Lancashire County Council, the unitary authorities of Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen, and 12 district councils, including Fylde and Wyre borough councils.

Nine councils, including Lancashire County Council, are Labour-led, four are Conservative and two have no overall majority.

Blackpool has more in common with places like Hastings than it does with places like the Ribble Valley

Simon Blackburn

While a combined authority would not need to be made up of every single council, leaders largely need to agree for the plans to work.

The Treasury says councils must speak to each other about what is wanted for the county, even if they don’t come together as a combined authority, but leaders are struggling to agree on what’s best.

Lancashire County Council deputy leader Coun David Borrow said: “We don’t need all 15, but if we only had six it would be difficult.”

He said the system would not work if councils were divided on “political grounds” – but leaders don’t all agree on the benefits of a combined authority.

Leader of Blackpool Council, Coun Simon Blackburn, suggested non-geographical devolution would be the most effective for the seaside town.

He said the council had become a unitary authority because it didn’t feel Lancashire County Council could pay enough attention to its needs.

He said: “Blackpool has more in common with places like Hastings than it does with places like the Ribble Valley.

“In the coming months, therefore, I will be exploring the possibility of working with other seaside towns – some of whom might, like Blackpool, want local control over housing benefit budgets, as a tool to dealing with a large surplus of former hotel accommodation, to name but one issue.”

Coun Peter Rankin, leader of Preston Council, said he didn’t think a combined authority would help with existing services in Preston,

He said: “Combined authorities will really only be looking at taking on new powers to do things that are more appropriately done within the locality rather than from London.”