Power to the people

By Lancashire Business View

19 Sep 2017

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry has called on Lancashire’s political leaders to come together and drive a new devolution deal that works for the county. And he says the prize for delivering it could be huge.

The Rossendale and Darwen MP is also looking to get what he calls Lancashire’s “Northern Power towns” on board as he steers the project towards its “second phase”.

He says that second phase will see the minister working closely with the recently elected Manchester and Liverpool’s Labour metro mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram in a “partnership” approach looking to deliver tangible economic results.

And although he also mentions Lancashire County Council when it comes to partners, it is clear that those parts of the North that have sealed devo deals are in a prime position to benefit from the powerhouse push he outlines.

The 38-year-old MP speaks enthusiastically about devolution and returning power and money from Whitehall to the regions. He says work is continuing to push forward devo deals in Yorkshire and the North East.

And there is no doubt he would like to see devolution, which has stalled in the county he represents as an MP, resurrected. However he is clear that the initiative and the solution has to come from the county’s local authorities.

He told Lancashire Business View: “It has got to be ground up. The problem with the previous deal is that some local authorities have fallen away and said ‘we don’t think it is right for us’.

“If we can get a new Lancashire partnership working right, we can build on some of our successes and I’m really keen to see that come forward. Lancashire knows what is right for Lancashire and that is where we have got to get to.”

There are other powerhouse challenges facing Lancashire and he adds: “I am all too aware of the Northern Power towns around the county that need to be brought into the Northern Powerhouse project.”

He reels off communities, including Blackburn, Chorley and Morecambe, and speaks of conversations in government to see how they can be brought more into the powerhouse.

He said: “It is about working out what more we can do with these Northern Power towns to drive Lancashire into the project.”

A fuller version of this interview can be seen in the current issue of Lancashire Business View

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