Downtown consults business community over devolution

The Lancashire business community has given its support to the concept of devolved powers for the county, at an event run by business lobbying organisation, Downtown in Business.

Devolution FrankLeader of Lancashire County Council, Jennifer Mein, addressed the 50 delegates at an event which was held at the McDonald Tickled Trout Hotel.

She thanked Downtown for bringing together business leaders and explained: “Lancashire is not the poor relation to Manchester or Liverpool, we are the third largest economy in the North and we are ready to state the case for being a driving force within the ‘Northern Powerhouse’.

“Devolution is a negotiation and Lancashire County Council is currently in discussion with the two unitary authorities and 12 district authorities on which areas we want greater control of how the proposed combined authority might operate.”

The delegates explored which areas should be included in the proposal to government via a series of workshops. There was universal support for devolution from business leaders who urged the inclusion of health and social care as a key area, as well as the supporting the priorities already identified including skills, transport, and economic development, housing and digital links.

They also cited the need for a strong, united business community that can take the new combined authority to task and stressed that the private sector should have a voice in proceedings.

Downtown chief executive, Frank McKenna said: “This is about making better use of our resources and creating a model that works for Lancashire. I know there is concern about our local authorities working together but we are engaging with business communities across the country via the Downtown network and many places are experiencing similar challenges.

“We wanted to provide the view of SMEs to our local political leaders ahead of the crunch meeting on September 1st so they can be considered as the discussion about devolution continues. “It was great that Jennifer attended the event and got to listen to the feedback personally, and we shall be submitting a paper which summarises the views of those who attended the session. It’s a very exciting time for Lancashire and if we get devolution right it could make our region more prosperous by directing and maximising resources, something which will benefit us all.”