A new super authority for Lancashire – possibly with its own elected mayor – has moved a step closer after pioneering talks between political leaders across the county.
All 15 councils met this week to test the water for a brand new Red Rose body to benefit from devolved powers on offer from Westminster.
The move comes just as Greater Manchester has signed a landmark “devo” deal with Chancellor George Osborne in return for a greater say in its own destiny.
This week’s meeting, chaired by LCC leader Jennifer Mein, was attended by all 12 district councils and Lancashire’s two unitary authorities of Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen. The leaders agreed unanimously to investigate the formation of a combined authority.
Coun Mein explained: “For a number of months now the Labour group on the county council has been working behind the scenes to explore the potential of a combined authority for Lancashire. We believe that in order to gain vital devolved budgets and powers for our communities we have to explore changes to the way we and our partners work together across the county.
“The communities we all serve are being put at risk by unprecedented and disproportionate cuts to our government funding. I believe there is now a growing concensus that we need to look to explore the potential of establishing a Lancashire combined authority. Whilst these are only the first exploratory steps on a long road ahead of us, this is an important opportunity we as a county and a community cannot afford to ignore.”
Preston Council leader Peter Rankin said things were “moving fairly quickly”. On the possibility of an elected mayor, he said: “It would be very difficult to get the agreement of the electorate to support a single person who would have powers to do really quite a lot.”