Call to end stalemate on devolution deal for Lancashire

County Coun Azhar Ali

The campaign to gain devolution for Lancashire has been kickstarted this week by the county council’s Labour opposition group.

It is proposing a new way forward to break the deadlock which has so far scuppered plans for a Combined Authority for the county and seen proposals for a county mayor abandoned.

Lancashire County Council, Wyre, Ribble Valley and Fylde councils have all refused to be part of such an authority, with talks finally breaking down last November.

But the Labour group says it is essential to break the stalemate to harness improved funding from central Government and give the region more powers.

It is proposing the creation of a Lancashire Commissioning Group which would set up Community Interest Companies (CICs) which would focus on service areas such as economic regeneration and transport.

There would be no elections, no boundary changes and no council tax increase and existing councils would remain. But it is acknowledged there could be a shortage of funds, staffing and expertise to support the proposals which the Labour group describes as “a briefing note” not party policy.

County Coun Azhar Ali, Labour group leader, said: “As local politicians from all parties we owe it to the people of Lancashire to overcome our differences to build a better future. We need to speak to the government with one voice in order to get a better deal for Lancashire. These proposals bring out the best of what we have done and can do.”

• The proposed Commissioning Group would comprise county and borough council representatives.

• All councils would maintain their independence and each council would have one equal vote in the Group.

• CICs (Community Interest Companies) would be “gender balanced” and comprise 10 members including borough, county council, business and union reps.

• The CICs devolved service areas could also include energy and housing.

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