Devolution won’t happen without structural change
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.