TWO years on from when George Osborne first unveiled his vision of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, Manchester is pushing ahead with plans to devolve NHS funding and have an elected mayor with similar powers to London’s mayor.
Liverpool is forging ahead with a £300m extension project for its port area.
Meanwhile Lancashire is still wrangling over the creation of a combined authority, which has now been agreed by all Lancashire authorities apart from Wyre Council, but still needs to be presented to the government for approval.
Now with a new Prime Minister who has outlined a new vision for the powerhouse, there are opportunities for Lancashire – but only if it can put aside infighting and move ahead with firm plans.
Frank McKenna, head of the networking group Downtown in Business said: “It has been a concern to me for some time that Lancashire is being sidelined by the Northern Powerhouse agenda, with the regions two major cities dominating the agenda.
“The county needs to accelerate its plans to get the Combined Authority motoring and demonstrate to the new Prime Minister that we are ready to be handed the type of powers, responsibility and resources that are city neighbours are benefitting from.”
Mr McKenna said he felt Ms May would try to introduce similar packages outside of the big cities, making devolution more inclusive.
Babs Murphy, Chief Executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said: “Our fixation with the big cities needs to change.
“Lancashire needs to define the economy it wants to become and shape its own destination. The challenges ahead require innovation and new forms of partnership which will create opportunities for everyone. A combined authority is going to happen and it’s up to each and every one of us to make it succeed.”
Jennifer Mein, Leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “It’s essential we are proactive and engaged in discussions with the Government and regional partners about economic growth, and I’m determined that will remain the case. Progress with creating a combined authority is only one measure, and we’re on a positive path with that, despite the complexity of Lancashire’s local government landscape.
“There’s no doubt Liverpool and Manchester city regions are important neighbours to us, but we’re important to them too.”
Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn will work with 15 individual council leaders across the county towards setting up the new combined authority next year.
Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, Andrew Percy said: “The economic potential of the North of England is huge. Investors around the world can already see that for themselves, with foreign direct investment in the area more than doubling over the past two years.”