Burnley Borough Council could form a “breakaway” East Lancashire authority with neighbours from Pendle, Rossendale and Hyndburn as they bid to seek independence from Lancashire County Council.
The Burnley Express can reveal that informal talks have begun between the leaders of the borough councils after Pendle Council voted unanimously to kick off the process to form a unitary East Lancashire authority.
The move was welcomed by Burnley Council leader, Coun. Mark Towsend, who said that the county council had let down the people of East Lancashire.
He said: “For me, the question is about economic prosperity. I think Lancashire County Council is too big geographically to best represent the very specific issues in given areas.
“District councils have become unviable. I believe an East Lancashire authority would better represent our residents. It would allow us to forge local business links and deliver more efficiently on day to day services.”
Coun. Townsend said that Lancashire County Council had failed in a number of areas, particularly in social care, children’s services and roads, adding the county had “let people down.”
The Labour leader of Pendle Council, Coun. Mohammed Iqbal, said: “We voted to ask officers and a group of councillors to look at the detail of the consequences of breaking away from the county council.
“Clearly the county council in its current structure isn’t working for Pendle. A serious option, then, that needs to be considered is Pendle becoming part of an East Lancashire Unitary authority.
“That would give us the economies of scale to deliver services on a very local level. However, I don’t want the current level of government cuts to be passed down to us, particularly in areas such as adult social care.
“That is why we need to know what kind of figures we’re talking about and how it will affect our residents. Ultimately, though, this is a clear message to Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver that his authority is failing the people of East Lancashire.”
Coun. Iqbal admitted that he had held informal discussions with the leaders of neighbouring councils in Burnley, Rossendale, Hyndburn and Blackburn, and that there was a general consensus of opinion, but added that “the devil is in the detail.”
Deputy leader of Pendle Council, Conservative Coun. Paul White, who moved the motion, said: “I’m delighted our plan to look at this was supported by all parties in Pendle. It would mean less bureaucracy, less councillors, a more joined up approach and a louder voice for Pendle when it comes to things like economic development.
“There are clear benefits too for local people for services like Highways being delivered locally.”