What future for county hall if East Lancashire breaks away?

County at a crossroads? County Cllr John Fillis to ask what future for county hall if East Lancashire districts break away.
County at a crossroads? County Cllr John Fillis to ask what future for county hall if East Lancashire districts break away.
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Lancashire County Council will be asked this week whether it intends to “run down its services” and prepare to be replaced with standalone authorities.

Deputy leader of the opposition Labour group, John Fillis, will put the political poser to council leader Geoff Driver at a meeting of the full council on Thursday.

It follows moves by Pendle Council earlier this year to consider banding together with other boroughs in East Lancashire to break away from county hall.

Currently, Lancashire operates under what is known as a two-tier system of local government.

That means district councils like Preston and Pendle have responsibility for services including parks and bin collections in their own areas - but Lancashire County Council takes care of bigger ticket items such as education and social care across the whole region.

The exception is in Blackpool and Blackburn-with-Darwen, where so-called unitary authorities are responsible for all services in their areas.

It is this system to which Pendle Council is proposing to move, along with any other East Lancashire districts which it can persuade to join them.

The process began before May’s local elections, when Pendle Council was run by a minority Labour administration. But it was prompted by a call from the Conservative party on the authority - and they have since been elected on a specific pledge to create a single council for Pennine Lancashire.

Speaking earlier this year, Pendle Council’s then opposition Conservative leader, Paul White, outlined why he thought it would be better to become a breakaway borough.

“Preston is a whole world away from Pendle and I think people would like some control and to take decisions more locally.

“We’re nearing a cliff edge in East Lancashire when the money is going to run out, so we need to reform to be able to survive on the money we’re going to have.

“[Services] are better delivered closer to the point of need. [With] things like highways, you’d have a much greater local knowledge, “ Cllr White added.

Shortly after the local elections, Lancashire County Council voted to “note” the discussions which were to be held amongst districts in East Lancashire and “to await the outcome of these discussions and any firm proposals being put forward for consideration”.