Leader hits out at ‘costly’ Lancashire-wide authority plan

Plans for a Lancashire-wide authority have been dealt a blow after one council leader blasted the proposals as having ‘nothing in it for us except cost.”

Friday, 6th November 2015, 9:00 am
Coun Peter Gibson

Coun Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Council, said he would be recommending the council votes to opt out of the proposals to create a Lancashire Combined Authority.

Talks have been going on between the 15 councils in the county, which includes district, unitary and the county council, to create a framework to enable closer working on issues such as transport and economic growth.

But Coun Gibson said; “I keep asking the question, what are the benefits? But not one leader in Lancashire can tell me what the benefits are.

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“I have been told it is a ‘leap of faith’, but in Wyre we make decisions based on fact and evidence.

“No-one can assure me there will not be any costs associated with a combined authority. We will come to a point where someone says we need a chief executive for it, and how much will that cost for example?”

Coun Gibson does not believe Wyre will benefit from closer decision-making.

He said: “It is very clear from the governance arrangements the transport decisions will be controlled by Blackpool, Blackburn and Lancashire County Council. There will be no vote for districts.

“There is nothing in it for us except cost. We will be putting a report into our next full council meeting recommending we do not take part in it.”

Following several months of talks, all councils in Lancashire are due to make decisions on whether they want to be part of a combined authority before the end of the year.

Coun Alistair Bradley of Chorley Council, who is spokesman for the Lancashire councils on Combined Authority matters, said: “We are committed to finding a way forward for all councils in Lancashire to work together, and will continue to work towards that aim, in preparation for our next formal meeting in early January.”

But he admitted there would be a cost to setting up a combined authority.

He said: “At the moment there has been no cost to the taxpayer for the combined authority work – officers have been undertaking this work as part of their roles at their existing authorities.

Any potential future costs need to be worked out and agreed, and we will look at what’s best for the residents of Lancashire.

“The aim is to create benefits for residents, such as attracting new investment and creating jobs.”