Unitary plan before minister

Coun Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Borough Council
Coun Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Borough Council

Fleetwood and other areas across the borough would feel the benefit if Wyre council were to become a unitary 

That is the belief of Wyre leader, Coun Peter Gibson, who has now written to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to put the council’s case forward.

Coun Gibson has criticised the two-tier system and says Tory-run Wyre would be better off if it broke away from Labour-led Lancashire County Council.

However, Fleetwood’s Labour county councillor Lorraine Beavers says Wyre would simply be too small to cope with the challenge and costs of running facilities, including social services.

Coun Gibson told Mr Pickles: “I understand recently the Leader of Chorley Council and the MP for Chorley asked for your view regarding Chorley becoming a unitary authority and your response was that if they had a referendum locally you wouldn’t stand in their way. However I also understand it is your department’s policy the other local authorities would have to agree – including Lancashire County.

“This will not happen in Lancashire, in that case. I know the accepted wisdom is that Wyre is too small with a population of 110,000 to become unitary.

“However I have never seen any evidence to support this belief as there are a number of authorities with small populations that seem to manage perfectly well, such as Hartlepool and Darlington.

“The dead hand of LCC is holding back enterprising district councils in Lancashire. Wyre has frozen council tax for the last four years and will do so again in 2015/16 while LCC raised council tax.

“As 73 per cent of the council tax charge goes to LCC and only 12 per cent to Wyre, I am sure you will agree this is an unacceptable burden. Chorley and Wyre would be prepared to work together to present the unitary case without any contribution from your 

If Wyre did become unitary, the move would see services including transport, education and social services - brought under Wyre’s control.

But Coun Beavers countered: “It is politically-driven nonsense to suggest Wyre could cope with running these services. How could Wyre afford to pay for the expert staff needed to run social service departments and children’s homes? Blackpool just about manages and is much bigger. It will also cost thousands to hold a local referendum. That money would be better spent contributing to the cost of free tram travel for pensioners.”