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New offer could save county plan

Coun Simon Blackburn
Coun Simon Blackburn
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Moves to form a Lancashire wide combined authority could be back on the table after government chiefs said the deal could go ahead without an elected mayor.

Proposals for all 15 councils in the county to work more closely together were effectively shelved after Wyre, Fylde and the Ribble Valley withdrew from negotiations.

But Coun Simon Blackburn, chairman of the shadow combined authority, said a new offer was on the cards.

He told a meeting of Blackpool Council a letter had been received from Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry to say the offer of a non-mayoral combined authority was now on the table.

Coun Blackburn said: “This was something that was promised in the most recent Conservative manifesto at the June general election, and it appears clear they meant it.

“So armed with this information the Lancashire leaders took a view if the Government is now dropping what has always struck us as a rather peculiar insistence on an elected mayor, we would go away and consult with our own councils again to see whether those three councils who have said they don’t want to take part, might change their mind.”

Coun Blackburn added: “Seeing as the publicly stated objection from most people to this plan was the mayor, to have that removed helps progress.”

Coun Blackburn said he would be seeking further clarity from the minister as to how a combined authority without an elected mayor would operate.

The Lancashire leaders are due to meet again in October to discuss the issue.

Leaders of both Fylde and Wyre councils, which are both Conservative controlled, had previously said while they were happy to work alongside other authorities they did not want to be part of a formal combined authority.