This was the warning from Lancashire County Council Deputy Chief Alan Vincent as he called on local authorities in the region to form a new committee to secure one of the “county agreements” which it claims the Prime Minister, could be proposed in places like Lancashire.
In July, Boris Johnson announced he would abandon the ‘one-size-fits-all’ that had underpinned devolution agreements over the years for people like Greater Manchester – a message that has been widely interpreted as the government not requiring plus an elected mayor in exchange for additional powers and money.
This stipulation has long been a sticking point for several Lancashire district authorities and, although the 15 county council heads agreed – in principle – for the first time last year to explore the concept of a mayor with limited powers and the formation of a combined authority. , removing these requirements would almost certainly allow Lancashire councils to present a united front to government.
Will Lancashire have a better chance at devolving county agreements from the government …
The new bespoke devolution deals touted by the Prime Minister also appeared to drop an equally controversial government demand for two-tier council areas like Lancashire to simplify their local government structures before being given vested powers.
County Cllr Vincent told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that, against this background, the time has come for Lancashire to take action to secure the freedoms and additional funding it has been striving for for more than five years.
Welcoming the Leveling Up Fund announcements in this week’s budget for Burnley and Colne, he added: have, or are about to have, that status.
“Now that the government will allow us to have it too – without having to accept an elected mayor or local government reform – we cannot let our people down by not working together, under the leadership of the county council, to open the door to millions of pounds in government grants and investments.
“We are under no illusions and realize that the next two or three years will be difficult, so we have to help ourselves help our region by accepting every penny we can get from the government – and that means forming a joint cooperative committee of those advices. in Lancashire who know this is an essential tool under Lancashire local government, ”said County Cllr Vincent.
Earlier this month, the government told Greater Manchester and the region of Liverpool City – the two areas with elected mayors – that they would receive £ 1.07bn and £ 710m for payments, respectively. transport projects. However, Lancashire will not get anything out of a global transport pot that totals £ 7 billion and is split across municipal regions across the country.
County Cllr Vincent said the proposed committee would be a “combined authority in all but name” – but without the strings that have tied Lancashire for so long.
It was the demand for a reorganization of local government that caused most concern among Lancashire leaders in a wave of activity last summer that saw several authorities making sometimes competing submissions to the government. on how to redraw the complicated map of the council in the county.
The County Council proposed the abolition of itself and all other local authorities in Lancashire and to replace them with three autonomous – or unitary – councils serving the areas currently covered by Preston, Chorley, South Ribble and West Lancashire; Blackpool, Fylde, Wyre, Lancaster and Ribble Valley; and Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Rossendale and Pendle.
Meanwhile, Ribble Valley remained hostile to the idea of any kind of reorganization, and Burnley and Pendle wanted more details on the government’s political intentions before committing to a position.
Despite the announcement of the agreements with the county this summer, that detail has arguably not yet materialized – with the government now saying that a long-awaited white paper on Leveling Up, which will include its devolution plan, will be released before the end. of the year. .
Ultimately, Lancashire’s reorganization measures last year came to naught after the government failed to include the county in its next batch of areas to be considered for local government restructuring.