Ormskirk Advertiser

‘Why our county is ready for change’

- Politics · Notts County F.C. · Chorley · Reading F.C. · Lancaster · Whitehall · Arbeidersparty · Skelmersdale · Conservative Party (UK) · Liberal Democrats · Lancashire County Council · Robert Jenrick

LAN­CASHIRE County Coun­cil has laid out its case for abol­ish­ing it­self and ev­ery other lo­cal au­thor­ity in Lan­cashire.

The out­line plan has been sub­mit­ted to min­is­ters af­ter County Hall an­nounced in July that it wanted to see the 15 coun­cils that cur­rently make up Lan­cashire’s com­plex lo­cal gov­ern­ment map scrapped and re­placed with three stand­alone au­thor­i­ties.

The doc­u­ment con­firms that the pro­posed new ar­eas would com­prise Cen­tral Lan­cashire (based on the foot­prints of Pre­ston, Chor­ley, South Rib­ble and West Lan­cashire coun­cils), North West Lan­cashire (Black­pool, Fylde, Wyre, Lan­caster and Rib­ble Val­ley) and East Pen­nine Lan­cashire (Black­burn with Dawren, Burnley, Rossendale, Hyn­d­burn and Pen­dle).

The pitch to the gov­ern­ment claims that the county is “ready for change” and notes that its econ­omy is fall­ing be­hind other ar­eas of the North West – slip­ping from the sec­ond largest in the re­gion to the fourth.

It states that the pro­posed new coun­cil ar­eas – each of which would cover a pop­u­la­tion of around 500,000 peo­ple – would be based on “cred­i­ble ge­og­ra­phy, eco­nomic co­her­ence and com­mut­ing pat­terns”.

The move comes af­ter the gov­ern­ment an­nounced ear­lier this year that two-tier ar­eas like Lan­cashire would have to sim­plify their lo­cal au­thor­ity set-up if they wanted to strike a de­vo­lu­tion deal to re­ceive ex­tra pow­ers and cash from White­hall .

That would mean the cre­ation of so-called “uni­tary” au­thor­i­ties – like those al­ready in ex­is­tence in Black­pool and Black­burn, but larger – and a new com­bined au­thor­ity, of which they would form a part, which would be headed by an elected mayor and di­rect strate­gic de­ci­sions for the whole county on de­volved is­sues like trans­port and skills.

The changes would, ac­cord­ing to the re­port, en­able Lan­cashire to speak with “one sin­gle, cred­i­ble voice”.

County coun­cil leader Ge­off Driver says that the rad­i­cal over­haul is “the only game in town” if Lan­cashire is to get the most of what is on of­fer from min­is­ters – which could in­clude an ex­tra £30m per year for the county over the next 30 years, based on sim­i­lar deals.

“It is clear that the gov­ern­ment sees com­bined au­thor­i­ties and elected may­ors as the ve­hi­cle for ‘lev­el­ling up’ the coun­try as they promised at the gen­eral elec­tion,” County Cllr Driver ex­plained.

“So un­less we’re pre­pared to see the peo­ple of Lan­cashire fall fur­ther be­hind – which would be shame­ful – we’ve all got to get to­gether and sort this out.

“Some peo­ple will knock it and say [the ex­tra fund­ing] is noth­ing, but when the gov­ern­ment gets through Covid, then we will start see­ing the real ben­e­fits com­ing to the [new­ly­cre­ated] com­bined au­thor­i­ties – and we sim­ply won’t get them if we aren’t part of that.”

It emerged last week that Lan­cashire was not on a list of five ar­eas re­ported to be at the front of the queue for a de­vo­lu­tion deal – but County Cllr Driver said his aim was to “get amongst them”.

The doc­u­ment sent to the gov­ern­ment claims that rip­ping up the coun­cil map in Lan­cashire could save be­tween £60m and £80m within three years – half of which would be on­go­ing sav­ings and the other half one-off wind­falls.

County Cllr Driver said that the most telling fi­nan­cial reck­on­ing would be the “cost of not do­ing it” – but stressed that un­der­ly­ing fund­ing dis­par­i­ties across lo­cal gov­ern­ment would still have to be ad­dressed in a long-promised gov­ern­ment re­view now due next year.

He also de­nied that fewer coun­cils cov­er­ing larger ar­eas would do a dis­ser­vice to democ­racy – be­cause of gov­ern­ment plans to strengthen the role of parish and town coun­cils.

How­ever, op­po­si­tion groups at County Hall con­demned the con­tent and the tim­ing of the Con­ser­va­tiverun au­thor­ity’s bid for a break-up of the cur­rent struc­ture.

Labour’s deputy leader John Fil­lis, who rep­re­sents Skelmersda­le East,

IN THEIR pro­posal, Lan­cashire County Coun­cil has told the lo­cal gov­ern­ment sec­re­tary Robert Jen­rick that the pro­posed coun­cil shake-up will: ● Build on the iden­tity of Lan­cashire’s “unique towns and cities”. ● Raise the pro­file of Lan­cashire with the gov­ern­ment and within the North­ern Pow­er­house. ● En­sure “hous­ing al­lo­ca­tion and de­liv­ery are in the right places”. ● Bet­ter align en­vi­ron­men­tal pri­or­i­ties and the is­sues of trans­port and plan­ning. ● Main­tain a “whole-Lan­cashire” brand. ● Cre­ate a “more man­age­able num­ber” of lo­cal stake­hold­ers. said there had been “no con­sul­ta­tion with other par­ties, dis­trict coun­cils or, most im­por­tantly, res­i­dents”.

“I’m not against re­or­gan­i­sa­tion if it is shown to ben­e­fit the peo­ple of Lan­cashire – but this will cost thou­sands of jobs across lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

“It would be a recipe for dis­as­ter dur­ing the cur­rent cri­sis. Would peo­ple ex­pect us to be fo­cus­ing on this is­sue at the mo­ment or help­ing our com­mu­ni­ties?

“There should be a proper dis­cus­sion at some point in the fu­ture – whereas this is just a pow­er­play by cowardly Con­ser­va­tives who are run­ning scared of the peo­ple,” he said, re­fer­ring to the likely can­cel­la­tion of next year’s county coun­cil elec­tions if Lan­cashire en­ters into mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sions on de­vo­lu­tion in the com­ing weeks.

West Lan­cashire Bor­ough Coun­cil leader Cllr Ian Mo­ran has pre­vi­ously raised con­cerns over Cllr Driver’s pro­pos­als and whether the res­i­dents of West Lan­cashire would ben­e­fit. He has been open to the idea of join­ing with Chor­ley and South Rib­ble but not Pre­ston.

He ex­plained: “We have no links with Pre­ston, whereas we do share some links with Chor­ley and South Rib­ble. A Pre­ston-based coun­cil would just be­come a mini-county coun­cil, in which West Lan­cashire is ig­nored – just as we are now.

“It would be to the detri­ment of the towns, vil­lages and ham­lets of the bor­ough.”

Mean­while, Lib­eral Demo­crat group leader David Whipp said that the “loss of con­trol for lo­cal res­i­dents that would be brought about by a com­bined au­thor­ity and new uni­tary coun­cils would be an ab­so­lute dis­grace”.

“It would con­cen­trate power into the hands of a sin­gle per­son – and is now re­ally the time to be shuf­fling the deckchairs on the Ti­tanic when we are liv­ing through the big­gest cri­sis since World War Two?” he asked.

The doc­u­ment sent to gov­ern­ment says that Lan­cashire will ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of es­tab­lish­ing an in­de­pen­dent “democ­racy com­mis­sion” to en­gage with the pub­lic and guide the jour­ney towards a new coun­cil model in the county.

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 ??  ?? Cllr Ian Mo­ran, leader of West Lan­cashire Bor­ough Coun­cil
Cllr Ian Mo­ran, leader of West Lan­cashire Bor­ough Coun­cil
 ??  ?? Cllr Ge­off Driver, leader of Lan­cashire County Coun­cil
Cllr Ge­off Driver, leader of Lan­cashire County Coun­cil

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