With cross-party support for both the Remain and Brexit campaigns,the political lines have been blurred over the European referendum taking place today.
But in Blackpool, the traditional Labour and Conservative opposition is evident when it comes to respective party leaders.
Labour Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn is an advocate to stay in the union. Opposition leader Conservative Coun Tony Williams wants the UK to go it alone. Here, we take a look at their opposing points of view.
Coun Simon Blackburn
Labour Council Leader
We can only understand Blackpool’s challenges (and therefore the solutions to those challenges) in the context of the system that it is part of.
What I mean by this is that Blackpool was founded in order to meet the leisure and holiday needs of a prosperous Lancashire, as a result of the industrial revolution.
Blackpool grew more prosperous as Lancashire grew more prosperous, which continued right up until the 1960s when, to misquote Harold MacMillan, we never had it so good.
But as living standards continued to rise, and the horizons of the average working and middle class family broadened, Blackpool found it more difficult to compete with the resorts of the south coast (made accessible by the motorway network), and the warmer climes of Spain and Greece (made accessible by jumbo jets and package holidays).
It is serendipitous then that our future actually lies in a reinvigorated Lancashire, and a reformed and vibrant EU, and through our partnerships across the world.
Through the formation of a Combined Authority for Lancashire, we will be working much more closely with our immediate neighbours – to create jobs, share services, exchange best practice and ensure that Lancashire punches above it’s weight, and doesn’t get overshadowed by the new, powerful Mayors of Merseyside and Greater Manchester.
I spend a considerable amount of time representing Blackpool (and councils like Blackpool’s), at the Local Government Association in London – making sure our voice is heard loud and clear in Whitehall and Westminster- on issues as varied as refugees, trading standards, animal welfare and anti-terrorism.
I am examining ways in which we can work much more closely with our twin town of Bottrop, especially in terms of school improvement, community cohesion and economic growth.
We will shortly sign a further memorandum of understanding with the city of Sanya in Hainan Province, China – to help us to understand and exploit the vast emerging tourist and leisure markets in China, South Korea and Hong Kong.
We are working with Harvard University in Boston, the Norlien Foundation in Alberta, Canada, and the New York centre for Child Development on our early intervention “Better Start” program.
One of the main points of difference between myself and the Conservative group in Blackpool is that I feel that we need to look beyond Blackpool for solutions, to get out there and lever in all of the money, support and expertise we need.
The EU has spent millions of pounds in Blackpool – supporting the purchase and refurbishment of the Tower and the Winter Gardens, rebuilding the sea defences and supporting local enterprise and growth programmes, to name just a handful.
It will be very difficult for Blackpool to assert it’s rightful place on the regional, national and international stage, if Britain votes to become an inward-looking island, and chooses to cut itself off from all that our friends across the globe have to offer.
Coun Tony Williams
Conservative Opposition Leader
Whilst I realise that Blackpool has had a great deal of European funding that has enabled the purchase and investment in regard to the Tower and the tramway system etc. you have to look at the overall national picture and realise that these handouts come at an extraordinary price to everyone.
The UK is the second largest financial contributor to the EU and we get back far less than we pay in.
The EU is a totally undemocratic institution.
The rules are made by unelectedbureaucrats in the European Commission they write the laws, get them passed in an almost total pro- Euro parliament with no opposition and then impose these laws on member states.
In truth the European Union is not now the system or the machine we originally signed up to.
Its purpose and mission is far removed from the original concept of encouraging fair trading, it has become a power crazed monster with a record of corruption.
The Prime Minister went to Brussels with a watered down list of proposed changes and failed to get most implemented. Britain has no chance whatsoever of ‘Leading’ if we stay.
If we can’t get a few weak proposals approved then there is no chance of influencing major change in the future.
The fact that Britain maintains the strongest economy of all the partners speaks for itself.
I want to live in a Britain where my grandchildren and their children can go to their school of choice, where the standard of higher education remains one of the best in the world where investors and associated jobs are attracted by a stable home-grown economy.
A Britain where we control our borders, pass laws that are relevant to our country and deliver our own democracy.
I want to end the expensive intervention and overruling of our decisions by a European Court that allows foreign murderersand criminals to stay in our country.
I want to live in a society of diverse and mixed cultures where all religions are practised freely and with tolerance.I stand up to the threats made by Brussels – they are the ones who will be damaged if we leave.
Ultimately I believe in a full European Trade agreement but I do not want to continue our membership of a dictatorship that actually curbs our global trade, interferes with our judicial system and forces their laws and irrelevant rules on our country.