Lancashire being sidelined in Northern Powerhouse talks

The chief executive of private sector lobbying group and networking club Downtown in Business, Frank McKenna, has warned that Lancashire is in danger of being side-lined in discussions about the future of the Northern Powerhouse.

His comments come following a special Transport Summit for the north of England, hosted by Downtown in Business in Leeds last week, following an announcement by Transport Minister Chris Grayling that suggested funding for Crossrail North may be scrapped.

Contributors to the event included political leaders from Greater Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Bradford, Sheffield, and Hull.

Mr Mckenna said: “It was an important event, in that it brought together business and political leaders from across the north of England. I know there were Lancashire representatives in the room, but none had the authority to act as a spokesperson for the county in the same way as metro mayors, or indeed leaders who sit on formally constituted Combined Authorities, did.

“Lancashire’s shadow Combined Authority has not progressed quickly enough, and now this debate has encouraged the northern powerhouse stakeholders to constitute a platform that will provide business leaders and decision-makers to meet more regularly to debate and decide priorities for future investment.

“Lancashire needs to get its act together, and be able to offer this group a legitimate voice who can genuinely speak on behalf of the county.”

Mr McKenna added that there were no excuses for Lancashire not to be ready to take its place at the Northern Powerhouse table.

“I wrote to all Lancashire leaders two years ago, urging them to act then. I advised that they formed a Combined Authority, and negotiated a devolution deal with government as a matter of urgency.

“With a change of personnel at the top of government, and now much of the civil service embroiled in Brexit negotiations, I am frustrated that we didn’t get on and do it back then.

“Challenging though the new political landscape is, I would appeal to the County Council and others to finally formalise the Combined Authority, and enable Lancashire to punch its weight. The issues that are being decided are too important to allow parochial politics to get in the way of this crucial development.”

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