Devo­lu­tion won’t hap­pen with­out struc­tural change

Rossendale Free Press - - The Rossendale Scribbler -

IN Pre­ston, there is con­cern that Lan­cashire is go­ing to be left be­hind in the devo­lu­tion race, with ur­ban ar­eas like Greater Manch­ester ben­e­fit­ing from more pow­ers and cash while Lan­cashire doesn’t.

In­deed, the leader of Pre­ston Coun­cil, Peter Rankin, ar­gues Brexit means the govern­ment has given up on fur­ther devo­lu­tion to the re­gions - a claim dis­missed by the govern­ment.

To me, the big­ger prob­lem is that Lan­cashire’s politi­cal struc­ture isn’t ready for fur­ther devo­lu­tion.

To avoid the dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tion of the fact we still have bor­ough and county coun­cils in our area - an in­ef­fi­cient, costly way to run lo­cal ser­vices - Lan­cashire’s coun­cils set up a ‘com­bined au­thor­ity’ to push for devo­lu­tion.

Then Wyre Coun­cil quit it.

Re­gard­less of the ‘com­bined au­thor­ity’ it’s clear Lan­cashire County Coun­cil would call the shots if devo­lu­tion ever came to pass here - it is af­ter all the big­gest au­thor­ity.

But if you were a govern­ment min­is­ter mulling over de­volv­ing pow­ers to Lan­cashire, would you be con­fi­dent in it all work­ing out?

Given the Tory ad­min­is­tra­tion at LCC is barely six months old, and is on the knife edge of los­ing its ma­jor­ity fol­low­ing de­fec­tions and an ex­pul­sion, and the leader Ge­off Driver has al­ready had to sur­vive a vote of no con­fi­dence, I think the an­swer is no.

I think the lead­ers of Lan­cashire’s coun­cils should ex­pect to be told to make their au­thor­i­ties fit for the 21st cen­tury first.

My pref­er­ence would be abol­ish­ing the county coun­cil and creat­ing sev­eral smaller au­thor­i­ties based on merged bor­ough coun­cils tak­ing on more power. Will it hap­pen? I sus­pect not.

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