Central Lancashire will be offered the chance to strike a deal to take control of its own future.
The area, led by Preston, is one of 20 areas of the country which will compete for ‘city deals’ which could see it handed Government powers.
Up for grabs are greater control over issues like planning, skills and the ability to build upon its key industries.
Preston Council and Lancashire County Council will put together a joint bid covering the area by the end of January.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who will unveil the plans at a speech on Monday said he wanted the area to follow the lead of eight major cities, including Manchester and Liverpool, which have already struck deals.
He said: “I want Preston and Lancashire to come up with ambitious and innovative proposals to help them make changes that will be felt by everyone across their region.
“In the best English tradition we have witnessed a quiet revolution across the nation’s eight largest cities.
“From control over buses and trains and the freedom to plug skills gaps, to powers to ‘earn back’ tax and set up local investment funds to spend on local projects – the deals are unlocking the huge potential of our cities so they can go for growth.
“Now it’s time to free even more places from Whitehall control.”
Greg Clark, the minister for cities, said the bid had to prove it could deliver a plan to grow “even if it’s new and different.”
He said: “Every British town and city is unique – in its history, strengths, industries and character.
“For too long governments treated them as if they were all the same, making them conform to a Whitehall template.
“If it’s in Preston and Lancashire’s interest and the national interest, we’ll strike a deal and make it happen.”
It is unclear how many of the 20 areas asked to bid for a deal will be accepted with the Government claiming the onus will be placed on bidders to show they have “proposals which are worth accepting.”
Preston Council leader Peter Rankin, who will be at an event where Nick Clegg will unveil the second wave of city deals today, said he wanted to increase the growth of Central Lancashire to boost the wider county’s economy.
It is expected the council will look to include South Ribble and Chorley in its bid although it could include other boroughs of Lancashire.
County council leader Geoff Driver added Central Lancashire was a strong candidate for a ‘city deal’ due to its track record of delivering growth.
He said: “Preston’s location and infrastructure are strategically important to Lancashire and the wider region as a whole, so the Government’s decision to consider a city deal for the area is especially welcome.
“We will continue to work very hard with the city council and our private sector partners to secure new growth opportunities over the years to come.”
Paul Swinney, an economist at think-tank Centre for Cities, said successful bids would be those able to demonstrate a focus on key areas to use Government powers to achieve their aims.
His group drew up a report which showed the area as generating the second-highest number of private jobs in the past decade.
Mr Swinney said: “It is about taking an area, looking at what it does well and removing the barriers which allow it to do them even better.
“Central Lancashire is already in a strong position, now it needs to put forward a plan which clearly shows how it can get stronger.”
The Government has set the bidding areas, which include Sunderland and the North East and Hull and Humberside, a deadline of January 15 to submit bids with a view to having them up and running by next November.
It has said it expects bids to be able to be delivered quickly, drive efficiency and reduce the need for local cost-cutting by making the area more self-sufficient.
There will also be a “core package” made up of a package of new powers handed to each of the cities handed a deal.
CITY DEALS - Q&A
What is a city deal? A ‘city deal’ is an agreement between the Government and local councils to hand over money and responsibility.
Who has one already? Eight ‘core cities’, including Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Birmingham, already have city deals after agreeing changes including controlling skills budgets, being handed transport cash, and being given the power to raise cash to pump into local infrastructure.
Why Central Lancashire? Preston and Central Lancashire is one of the next 14 largest cities and the next six with the highest population growth.
Where is the government getting the money from? This is simply money sliced off central government budgets and handed to local councils along with the responsibility to put it into action.
How long will it take? The government has set the 20 areas a deadline of January 15 to submit a bid, with a view to the deals being in place by November next year.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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