Missing out on big investment

Preston city centre
Preston city centre

BLACKPOOL is missing out on investment because it scrapped its bid for city status, the resort’s former council leader claimed.

Coun Peter Callow launched a bid as part of a competition in 2011 for one local authority to be given city status to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

But the move was scrapped by Labour when they seized town hall control.

But Coun Callow said Preston’s success this week in sealing Government support for its City Deal, paving the way for economic regeneration, demonstrated why Blackpool should have proceeded with its quest to become a city.

He said: “Labour threw this golden opportunity away and it has set this town back.

“The last Conservative administration was working for city status and Labour came in and scrapped it because they were lacking in ambition.

“But we only need to look at what Preston has achieved to see where we could be now. Preston has got this City Deal while we are floundering around.

“When the Conservatives get back in, we will pursue this again.”

Labour scrapped the city status bid when they came to power after the 2011 local elections.

But council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said the town had been able to make a bid as part of the City Deal programme.

He said: “The fact Coun Callow does not understand we do not need to be a city to bid for a City Deal speaks volumes.

“We have had discussions with the Government about this – and our plans, for seizing control of the housing benefit budget, were judged to be too ambitious and too radical.

“The only thing fettering our ambition are the forces of Conservatism, both here and in Westminster - both of which I look forward to eradicating in 2015’s local and general elections.”

Preston’s City Deal proposal sets out a strategy to support the creation of 23,000 new jobs, 15,000 new homes and nearly £1bn in economic growth over the next 10 years. Among the infrastructure it will deliver is a new road linking the M55 motorway with the proposed enterprise zone in Warton.

County Coun Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “Preston has enormous potential as a focal point for economic growth, but this bid is on a vast scale and it is not just the city itself but all of Lancashire that stands to benefit.”

City deals are designed to give cities the powers and tools they need to drive local economic growth.

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