Lancashire’s inability to secure a devolution deal is putting it at a major disadvantage and it is in danger of being left behind when it comes to securing government money in areas such as net zero transition.
That was the stark warning from Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, speaking at a Lancashire Business View roundtable on the clean energy agenda.
He said other parts of the North West were stealing a march on Lancashire and blamed its “political leadership” for the lack of devolution progress and the impact that was having.
Henri told the online event: “Lancashire does need to think about its governance, and why it is that Greater Manchester is stealing a march on the net zero transition.
“It’s absolutely further ahead and the reason is because it has better governance. It has an elected mayor and a combined authority. Lancashire has been offered those things several times and has declined to take advantage of them.”
He added: “Businesses in Lancashire that I speak to want the same advantages that businesses in other parts of the North of England get.
“The whole point is, central government has a role, which is to provide investment and a framework. When it comes to directly intervening in some of these sectors, you want it to be done by somebody ‘down the road’.
The LEP has legitimacy, but it hasn’t got the democratic accountability that comes from having an elected mayor
“The challenge is that the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has legitimacy, but it hasn’t got the democratic accountability that comes from having an elected mayor able to spend central government money at real scale.
“I think that what we need to see is a devolution deal for Lancashire. You’ve now got Cumbria that has overtaken Lancashire as well.
“So, you’ve got places with fewer industrial assets, fewer higher education assets, wonderful as Cumbria is, stealing a march.
“You will literally have all of the North West from Greater Manchester and Liverpool up, all the way to Cumbria, and then you’ll have this big hole in the middle, and I just don’t think that’s good enough.”
He went on: “One my regrets is that in the course of the last few months, there hasn’t been more of a focus on getting a mayoral devolution deal for Lancashire.”
He said that Lancashire was able to negotiate with central government when it came to the big subjects, such as the future of the Springfields nuclear fuel operation, near Preston.
However, he added: “How are you going to tackle issues like how we decarbonise heat in our communities and our neighbourhoods?
“Are we going to reduce people’s fuel bills as easily if we don’t have somebody able to invest and lead that decarbonisation journey? At the moment it’s very fuzzy who can provide that leadership.”
He praised the LEP and its leadership for its “really positive” agenda for the county.
But he asked: “Where are the politicians? Where is the certainty, and where is their commitment to share local responsibility with each other, in return for a bigger slice of government investment? We absolutely need that.”
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