Lancashire’s authorities must work together

Is there anything for Lancashire in George Osborne's trip to China?
Is there anything for Lancashire in George Osborne's trip to China?
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A high-powered delegation is in China lobbying for the Northern Powerhouse – but Lancashire officials are nowhere to be seen.​​

Chancellor George Osborne is using a week-long tour to showcase the best the North has to offer to Chinese investors.

This highlights the importance of an early agreement between the 15 councils as to whether to proceed with a combined authority or not

But Lancashire councils have not yet formed a joint strategy on devolution – and so the county is still not ready to join the party.

Today, local authorities said they had strong economic and educational ties with China, and denied the county was missing out through not being ready to join the Powerhouse.

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “This highlights the importance of an early agreement between the 15 councils as to whether to proceed with a combined authority or not.

“I am pressing for negotiations with the Government over a possible devolution deal to commence as soon as possible -–as it is only once those negotiations are concluded that we will be able to make a final decision on whether to create a formal combined authority.

“China is going to be incredibly important to the economy of the North of England – one of the reasons that Blackpool is exploring further it’s relationship with the city of Sanya, whose Mayor visited for talks with me recently.”

The Chancellor is trying to forge a new era in UK-China relations as he launches a bid to deepen ties with the world’s second largest economy.

The top-tier business and ministerial delegation is travelling throughout China with an emphasis on investment into the North of England.

The Northern Powerhouse delegation trip is made up mainly of the core of local authorities who have been promised devolution.

But the Treasury says councils must speak to each other about what is wanted for the Lancashire, even if they don’t come together as a combined authority.

The Lancashire authorities agree in principle about working together – but it will be later this year when they produce detailed recommendations.

Among the companies on this week’s China trip was Halite, the company behind plans to store gas under the countryside near Preesall.

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “This highlights the importance of an early agreement between the fifteen councils as to whether to proceed with a Combined Authority or not. I am pressing for negotiations with the Government over a possible devolution deal to commence as soon as possible - as it is only once those negotiations are concluded that we will be able to make a final decision on whether to create a formal combined authority. China is going to be incredibly important to the economy of the North of England- one of the reasons that Blackpool is exploring further it’s relationship with the city of Sanya - whose Mayor visited for talks with me recently.