Lancashire is in danger of falling a long way behind Manchester and Liverpool if it doesn’t get its act together on devolution.
That was the stark warning given to county politicians by Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry at a special “Devo Lancs” event hosted by Downtown Lancashire in Business.
The minister’s comments came as Lancashire has so far failed to reach an agreement on a combined authority and an elected mayor – one of the key conditions to get more devolved powers.
Talking to an audience of business leaders from across the Red Rose county, the Rossendale & Darwen MP said: “The devolution deals that have been done in Greater Manchester and Liverpool have given a real focus to those areas.
“With an elected mayor, those city regions have a figurehead, a champion.
“I think Lancashire people will be watching the news, seeing Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram meeting with the Prime Minister and Ministers, and asking, ‘Where is our representative?’
“Not only that, but we are now starting to see real evidence emerge of those city-regions starting to attract more interest, more investment, and economic growth.”
Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn, chairman of Lancashire’s combined authority bid, has expressed his disappointment at the lack of agreement.
There are hopes that the plans could still be revived.
Mr Berry said: “I understand that in both of our great Northwest cities, it was an easier journey towards a devolution deal. There were already arrangements in place whereby local government leaders were working together. So, Lancashire has a further way to go. However, given the positive experience of the Northern Powerhouse and devolution, I hope that we will see a real effort from the county’s political leaders to create an environment of collaboration, in order to move towards a devolution deal.”