Get on with creating a Lancashire-wide Combined Authority

Four local authorities in the east of the county have proposed a ‘breakaway’ grouping and a possible unitary council that would see the break-up of Lancashire.

I say they need to drop their parochial approach and get on with creating a county-wide combined authority so that the region can start to play its full part in the Northern Powerhouse.

Just when it seemed Lancashire was getting its act together, we have a return to the parochial politics that have held us back for far too long now.

City deal investment has masked the cost to Lancashire of a lack of engagement with the devolution process which has cost the county literally millions of pounds worth of investment in areas such as skills and infrastructure – never mind the negative impact it has had on our influence on the wider regional agenda.

Frankly, business is fed up having to listen to politicians focussing on micro issues rather than the big strategic opportunities that are within our grasp. We’ve had a row over how many Local Enterprise Partnerships we should have. We’ve seen a shadow combined authority established, and then inexplicably scrapped.

Now the replacement body, ‘Lancashire Leaders’, is squabbling about a break-up rather than consolidating some of the positive work that has been undertaken in recent years and progressing a ‘one Lancashire’ approach.

Business is fed up having to listen to politicians focussing on micro issues

Marketing Lancashire and the LEP have demonstrated how collaboration can benefit the whole county. The exciting bid to host city of culture, the successful Lancashire contribution to international property festival MIPIM earlier this month and the powers we are seeing handed to devolved organisations in Liverpool, Manchester and elsewhere should be motivation enough for our leaders to be seeking a co-operative future rather than a continuation of tired old arguments and an East versus West approach.

Not only do I think the East Lancashire authorities make the county weaker with their new initiative, if they were ever successful in their calls for a unitary council, I believe places like Burnley and Pendle would be poorer in economic development terms.

They should be careful what they wish for.