Councils to explore combined authority again

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A combined authority for Lancashire, which has been under discussion for several years, could be back on the table after council leaders agreed, in principle, to explore the idea once more.

It is hoped that a combined authority for Lancashire would mirror the results of other, similar arrangements around the country which have helped areas take more control over their own and affairs and improved their ability to source investment for their economy, infrastructure and skills.

But the chequered history of negotiations includes a public consultation in 2016, the withdrawal of 15 councils in 2017, positive talks in 2018 and a breakaway group in 2019.

Now a unanimous decision has been taken for all of the county's councils to "work together more closely to improve the economy of Lancashire, addressing issues such as transport and inward investment."

The agreement needs to be ratified by each of the councils represented and will be subject to local democratic processes.

Councillor Alyson Barnes, leader of Rossendale Borough Council, and chair of the District Leaders Forum, said: "Councils in Lancashire are keen to work together for the benefit of all our residents and businesses across Lancashire. The interest in a combined authority for Lancashire stems from the ability to access greater government funding to assist the growth of businesses and stimulate the economy."

Business commentator Frank McKenna, a champion of the cause for more than half a decade, previously wrote in an article entitled Get on with creating a Lancashire-wide Combined Authority: "Collaboration can benefit the whole county. The exciting bid to host the city of culture, the successful Lancashire contribution to international property festival MIPIM and the powers we are seeing handed to devolved organisations in Liverpool, Manchester and elsewhere should be motivation enough for our leaders."

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