Fylde councillors have voted to join a proposed Combined Authority for Lancashire in a bid to boost prosperity and raise the area’s profile.
The new authority, if approved by Whitehall later this year, would aim to unite the work of 14 out of Lancashire’s 15 councils in skills, training, transport and housing. The first step, pending Whitehall approval, will be to form a Shadow Combined Authority to start setting priorities.
The new body is not a merger of district councils. But the councils which have voted in favour will work in partnership to raise the area’s profile on the national stage to secure increased investment in the strategic areas outlined above.
Coun Sue Fazackerley, leader of Fylde Council, said: “We’ve seen all the coverage about how Greater Manchester and Merseyside are leading the way in driving forward the ‘northern powerhouse’ and it’s important Fylde doesn’t get left behind.
“The Government is looking to give local areas more power which we can use on strategic-level matters such as housing, transport and skills – areas of expertise which can be done better by councils working together.
“Fylde Council will continue with the same role and upon the same footprint as now. What will change is that each district council will send a delegate to the new combined body to speak up for Fylde on these strategic-level areas of policy.”
A public consultation in January and February resulted in 1,944 responses from members of the public and local organisations. Of those, 74 per cent ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘tended to agree’ that Lancashire councils should work in partnership. Seventy per cent agreed with the proposal to establish a Combined Authority.
Coun Fazackerley added: “We want to create a place where people want to invest and create jobs – if we can work together to ensure that people in our area have the right skills we will be a much more attractive proposition to investors.”
All of the non-unitary district councils within Lancashire – apart from Wyre – have backed work on the Combined Authority plan so far.
Six, however, still have to give final approval at their next meetings, all scheduled to take place in the next two weeks.