Economy and Infrastructure

01.03.19

Lancashire councils launch bid for new unitary super-council

Four Lancashire councils have launched a campaign to create a new ‘super’ unitary authority.

The authorities have written to the government asking for advice on how to create a new all-purpose ‘Pennine Lancashire’ council in order to pool their resources to create a “big voice in the Northern Powerhouse.”

The four leaders making the cross-party call to James Brokenshire come from Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale and Blackburn with Darwen councils.

The cross-party alliance said their plans would “see their areas move from being remembered as the birthplaces of the industrial revolution, to being reborn as the industrial HQ of the Northern Powerhouse.”

With some of the councils who announced their budgets this week facing multi-million deficits, as well as having to raise council taxes and make “difficult decisions” regarding vital services, the letter highlighted that the region has some of the highest levels of deprivation in the country.

The letter read: “This has gone on for too long. We believe with an ambitious plan and our drive... we can deliver the very best for our residents.”

“Our area has unique needs that are currently not being met. This plan would allow us to create a financially sustainable authority, with one set of senior managers and economies of scale.”

Councillors Paul White, Mohammed Khan, Alyson Barnes and Mark Townsend told the government that as part of the plan they want official backing for a Pennine Lancashire Pilot Plan developed for the area, which would involve the private sector in order to improve transport and education.

If approved, the new unitary would take over responsibilities for the four areas from Lancashire County Council and also scupper plans for a Lancashire Combined Authority.

Burnley council leader Mark Townsend said: “It is great news that as East Lancashire Leaders we have put any differences we may have to one side and are working together for the benefit of the area as a whole.

“A Pennine Lancashire Council will have the scale and influence to attract the inward investment needed to sustain quality services for residents and realise the Borough’s economic growth potential.”

However, Miles Parkinson - the leader of Hyndburn Council which sits in the middle of the proposed unitary area, has opted against joining the campaign.

Parkinson said he did not sign the letter because he could not see any agreement across all of Lancashire, and the county council leader Geoff Driver said there were many difficult issues to consider before implementing any such proposal.

 

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