Councils agree to devolution talks

Devolution for Lancashire took a step closer to reality after 14 of its 15 councils agreed to form a partnership that will negotiate terms with the government.

Geoff Driver

If successful, the move would devolve power and money from Whitehall, giving Lancashire greater control of its own affairs and the opportunity to move out from the shadows of Liverpool and Manchester.

Talks of a Combined Authority date back a number of years, but as recently as last November councils were unable to agree to work together.

However, councillor Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council and chair of the Lancashire Leaders group, said the most recent meetings have proved positive.

"All the leaders know it is in the best interests of the county to work better together but the important thing is that we get the mechanism for how we do that right," he said.

“We’ve been having positive discussions since the early part of this year and we’ve now formed a new collaboration that will see us work together on topics such as transport, jobs and housing, which affect the whole county, and this group will drive forward negotiations with government to see if they will devolve meaningful power and investment to us to make sure this great county plays an important role in the Northern Powerhouse.

“For too long we’ve seen money pouring into Manchester and Merseyside and now it is time to ensure we can work together to create more opportunities and jobs for our residents.”

Each of the council leaders, with the exception of Fylde Borough Council, agreed on a set of principles that will lead to a Lancashire Strategy, terms for a devolution deal and a new set of governance arrangements.

Driver added: “We had the leaders from all councils, except Fylde, at the meeting and while it’d be great to have everyone around the table they are keeping a close eye on what’s happening and as we drive this forward I hope they will join our group and take an active part in shaping the future of Lancashire."

Driver said the government had been made aware of the county's progress and that the councils were awaiting instructions for the next step. “We’ve got a lot to be proud of here in Lancashire as we have one of the largest economies in the North of England home to over 40,000 businesses employing in excess of 670,000 people and we want to see that continue to grow," he added.