Hunt promised a Lancashire Devolution Deal – what’s next?
The Autumn Statement revealed the government’s commitment to a devolution deal for Lancashire, one that will look quite different to past deals for Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s announcement of additional devolution deals was met with widespread optimism on Wednesday. The Lancashire Devolution Deal in particular has been a long time in the making, with the county flirting with the idea in 2019 and then working more seriously on a deal over the past six months.
Here’s what we know about the Lancashire Devolution Deal.
Will there be a mayor?
In short, no. A central figurehead is not required for this devolution deal. There would be a new organisation that leads the initiative though – the Lancashire County Combined Authority.
The LCCA would be made up of a representative from Blackburn with Darwen Council and one from Blackpool Council. Lancashire County Council would have two spots on the LCCA, with another two reserved for representatives chosen by the district and borough councils.
There would be an additional two members of the LCCA, appointed by the combined authority. It is anticipated that a representative from the business world would also be a member of the LCCA.
Who is leading on this?
Lancashire County Council, Blackpool Council, and Blackburn with Darwen Council are the masterminds behind the deal. Blackpool and Blackburn are both unitary councils, which sets them apart from the other district and borough councils in Lancashire.
It is worth noting that creating a LCCA would not change the existing councils in the area, so Burnley Council, Preston City Council, etc. would continue to exist and operate as usual in their areas. The voice of the district councils will be represented on the LCCA through two spots on the board.
What would the LCCA do?
The combined authority would have increased control over adult education, skills improvement plans, and local transport. The LCCA would also have compulsory purchase powers that it could use to help spur affordable housing delivery and regeneration projects.
LCCA would also take on many of the jobs of the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership, including advocating for investment and presenting a local business voice. It will also take on the responsibilities of the Growth Lancashire Company, LEP Growth and Skills Employment Hub, and LEP Investment Team. The LCCA would also be focused on the visitor economy for the county.
Where would funding come from?
The LCCA would receive £1m from central government for its first two financial years, with additional funds coming from Blackpool Council, Blackburn with Darwen Council, and Lancashire County Council.
The government has also said it will provide up to £20m in capital funding, with an eye towards making the most of the upcoming National Cyber Force headquarters in the region and the county’s net zero goals.
Blackpool, Lancashire County, and Blackburn councils must all agree to conduct a public consultation for the draft devolution deal. Blackpool is looking to start its eight-week consultation on 1 December, with others taking similar timing. The results of the consultation will be discussed in March 2024, changes made, and a final proposal will be submitted for government sign off.
As for when an LCCA would be created and the devolution deal done – the estimated date is summer or autumn 2024, according to a Blackpool Council report.
Are we happy about this?
The leaders of Blackburn with Darwen Council, Blackpool Council, and Lancashire County Council have all released statements welcoming the devolution deal.
Lancashire County Council Leader Cllr Phillippa Williamson called it “amazing news”, add added “This announcement is a hugely significant milestone in our devolution journey and signifies a really crucial step forward.”
Blackburn with Darwen Council Leader Cllr Phil Riley chimed in: “ “It’s a real triumph for everyone involved to have finally made a start on the devolution of powers to Lancashire after many false starts.
“This will give Lancashire a voice both nationally and, in the North West, allowing the region to start to compete on an even playing field with our neighbours in Manchester and Liverpool…
“This deal won’t change people’s lives overnight but it’s a really positive step in the right direction and, hopefully, the beginning of a story where more powers can be devolved from Westminster to Lancashire.”
As for Cllr Lynn Williams, Leader of Blackpool Council, she said: “By giving Lancashire more control over its own destiny, we can prioritise resource and investment so that it truly meets our needs.
“As the government has made clear, devolution is a long-term process and this is a positive start. It is my hope that this deal will give us a platform to secure more powers and resource for our communities into the future.”