Chorley Council backs Lancashire county deal plan with an appeal to 'focus on what we agree on'

Chorley Council has become the first district authority in Lancashire to throw its weight behind the latest blueprint for a devolution deal with the government.

By Paul Faulkner
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 2:01 pm
Updated Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 6:22 pm

The Labour-run council unanimously supported a draft plan which outlines the basis for negotiations with ministers to secure a £5.6bn package of powers and cash.

It came just 24 hours after the document was approved by Lancashire County Council - and the vote may have settled a nervousness that had arisen in some quarters after the Labour opposition group at County Hall attempted to amend the wording of the proposal.

That move was designed to insist that Lancashire sought similar powers to those already enjoyed by Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region - and it was backed by Preston City Council leader Matthew Brown, who said he was considering putting the same proposed change to members of his own authority when they consider the matter on Thursday.

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Chorley was the first district council to vote on the devolution plan

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However, in Chorley, council leader Alistair Bradley recommended that the document was approved as it stood - and recalled how previous attempts at devolution and joint working had “fallen apart…mainly because Lancashire can’t agree with itself”.

He said that the latest plan laid out Lancashire’s priorities, adding: “It was recognised [amongst Lancashire leaders] that every council was sovereign and, therefore, every council has its existing powers and…roles.

“So the decision was to concentrate on what additional powers we would like to have…that could particularly improve people’s economic situation - jobs, skills, incomes - and also things around the environment and climate change, the transport infrastructure and wider connectivity [such as] broadband and…access to decent housing…a decent start in life and a decent education.

“So money that would be spent in Lancashire by the government [would] instead be given to Lancashire to add to what we already do - to give us a bit of additional control,” said Cllr Bradley, who was previously the deputy chair of a shadow combined authority for the county, which oversaw several stalled attempts at securing a devolution deal.

On the latest plan, he appealed: “If we can focus on what we agree on in Lancashire, we'll do a lot better than having lots of heated debates and disagreements and debates about what we don't agree on and we may never agree on.”

Aidy Riggott, Conservative councillor for Buckshaw and Whittle ward on the borough authority - and the cabinet member for economic growth at Lancashire County Council - said that negotiations between Lancashire leaders had been characterised by “compromises” and he paid tribute to Cllr Bradley and Chorley Council executive Gary Hall for their role in bringing the county to the verge of agreeing a deal amongst themselves.

All 15 Lancashire councils are debating the proposal in the coming weeks, after their leaders signed up to it after months of discussions late last year.

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