A Greater Lancashire?

This week, the starting gun has been fired for the consultation as to whether there should be a combined authority for Lancashire. This has been a long journey, and many have called for such a body for some time. With Lancashire noticeably absent from the Chancellor’s Northern Powerhouse trip to China towards the end of last year, this will be seen as a step forward for an area that was beginning to feel left behind.

The Leader of Chorley Borough Council, Councillor Alastair Bradley, who chairs the Council Leaders’ Group on combined authority matters, explained the rationale behind the plans in a very Northern way:

“I’d describe it a bit like the Lancashire pie: at the moment all the councils have a slice of the Lancashire pie and what a combined authority would do is give us the chance to make that pie bigger so we all get a bigger slice.”

It’s not perhaps how George Osborne would have put it, but the message is clear: if Lancashire wants to attract the kind of significant investment that is heading towards Manchester and other regions, it needs to act collectively. This will not only afford the opportunity to seek larger investments, but also provide the chance to have a greater voice in the North as a whole.

The Leader of Lancashire County Council, Jennifer Mein, has commented that individual councils working together as one would enable the county to move forward on strategic areas including major transport schemes. Anyone who lives in Lancashire and commutes to the larger cities such as Liverpool and Manchester will be aware that it either costs a lot on public transport, or takes a long time to commute at peak times (often during off-peak times too). A Lancashire speaking with one voice could develop a better relationship with areas, such as Greater Manchester, to improve links between the regions – another key aspect of the Northern Powerhouse agenda.

For anyone who wants to have their say, the consultation is open until 19 February for residents, organisations, councillors, and council employees. The consultation website can be found here.

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A single voice for Lancashire? Perm your idiom from the list of clichés…nailing jelly to a wall, herding cats, pushing water uphill…. etc.

This won’t really work until we realise sensible unitary authorities based on well thought out population and economic geographies across Lancashire and release the area out from under the behemoth County Council. Only then can we talk about devising a welcome and manageable, (preferably ‘skinny’) strategic tier as the ‘whole’ assisting and complementing the ‘equal’ parts. Funnily enough this is exactly what the Greater Manchester set up looks like.

I can’t really understand how anyone thinks the current patchwork of small districts, tin-pot city unitaries and a lumpen county council is the way to govern place in the 21st century or provides satisfactory results.

By Sceptic