‘No rush to combine councils’

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Blackpool’s town hall leader has said he will not rush into joining a combined authority which could see more cash and power devolved to local authorities.

Simon Blackburn was speaking after leaders 12 district councils, Lancashire County Council, plus two unitary authorities, Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen met to discuss setting up the system,

It would see more devolved power and cash from central government, giving regions more say on how they are run.

Coun Blackburn said: “It strikes me as premature to rush into arrangements which may or may not have far-reaching consequences for everyone in Lancashire. We need firstly to take stock, and examine carefully what the benefits of a formal Combined Authority might be, and reach an ‘in principle’ decision about whether or not it is something we wish to pursue.

“At that stage, assuming sufficient common ground is established, we can then work on the purpose and governance arrangements of any such body. It may be for instance that there are other combinations of local authorities which may work more effectively, or that a more nuanced plan is required.

“I am clear about this however - devolution must mean a transfer of power down from both politicians at Westminster and civil servants in Whitehall, into the hands of local communities.

“It does not mean power being devolved up from Blackpool to County Hall or beyond.”

He added Blackpool would be part of a working group to look at how a Combined Authority could work with a further meeting planned for January.

Coun Jennifer Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “I am extremely pleased that council leaders from across the county have agreed in principle to explore the potential of a combined authority for Lancashire.”