Combined authority ‘could see us ruled by county’

Blackpool Town Hall
Blackpool Town Hall
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Town hall chiefs will consider a proposal later this month for Blackpool to become part of a Combined Authority for Lancashire.

The move, which will be debated at full council on March 30, would see the town link up with other local authorities in the county including Lancashire County Council in order to take more control from central government over issues such as transport and economic growth.

Coun Simon Blackburn

Coun Simon Blackburn

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn, who has been taking part in Lancashire-wide talks, is backing the move.

But Tory opposition leader Coun Tony Williams has warned it could lead to the resort losing the independence it secured in 1998 when it became a unitary authority.

He said: “Blackpool is being asked to dive into a dark unknown abyss without looking at the potential financial costs to this council, what the gains are, and the eventual potential devolution of our independent status which could see us once more ruled by Lancashire County Council.”

He added: “Blackpool is unique from most every other town and city in Lancashire in both good and bad ways. We have different strengths, problems and social mix as well as different needs.

Coun Tony Williams

Coun Tony Williams

“If those who support a combined authority believe we will have a major part to play they will be mistaken. Blackpool will be a small fish in a very big pond.”

But writing in his latest council leader’s blog, Coun Blackburn says such devolution is “long overdue”.

He adds: “Combined authorities are the Government’s chosen vehicle for devolving power to the regions.

“This wouldn’t replace Blackpool Council but would give an opportunity to work with other neighbours in Lancashire to have greater power over key issues such as transport and economic growth.

“Such devolution is long overdue.

“Therefore we should seize the opportunity and enter negotiations which may finally mean we can tailor policies towards solving some of the longstanding issues that Blackpool and Lancashire face.”

Almost 2,000 residents and businesses took part in a public consultation, with the vast majority saying yes to the plans.

But Coun Williams said the figure was “meaningless especially when you consider there are more than seven million people living in the North West.”

However, Coun Blackburn thanked people for taking part in the consultation process.`