Wyre backs plans for Lancashire county deal and devolution - without an elected mayor

Wyre Council has given its backing to a blueprint for a devolution deal for Lancashire.

By Paul Faulkner
Saturday, 29th January 2022, 9:55 pm
Updated Saturday, 29th January 2022, 9:56 pm

The authority voted to support a draft agreement reached between the leaders of the county’s 15 councils outlining the basis for future discussions both between themselves and also with the government.

The proposal puts forward a vision for a £5.6bn settlement - spread over seven years - which would give Lancashire additional powers and cash in areas including transport, housing, skills, economic growth and climate change.

The monetary value of any so-called “county deal” with ministers is likely to represent a combination of additional investment and existing public spending over which Lancashire would be given control for the first time.

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Wyre's councillors have approved the basis for further devolution discussions

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Crucially, the draft document specifically rules out the creation of an elected mayor as part of a deal - a prospect which has long proved a sticking point for several Lancashire districts, Wyre included.

Under previous council leader Peter Gibson, the Conservative-run authority declined even to come to the table for devolution talks with its counterparts from across the county during an initial push for devolution just over five years ago.

His successor, current council chief David Henderson, is no greater fan of the idea of a mayor overseeing new resources and responsibilities that might come Wyre’s way - and so welcomed the outline deal now on the table.

"The report which has been agreed lays down the good work that has been done so far - and it allows us to go to the government and say that we are all in accord.

"Some people have asked me what will happen if the government says no. Well, we have explained that we don't want an elected mayor - although an elected spokesperson from the council leaders would be absolutely fine.

"This is collaboration on a scale that Lancashire has never seen before. It sends out the strong message that we are united and unwilling to be left behind," Cllr Henderson added.

The agreement between Lancashire’s leaders also confirms that the county is not prepared to commit to a streamlining of the number councils in the region. Along with an elected mayor, both have previously been recent government requirements for devolution deals, but they were seemingly swept away by Boris Johnson during a speech on “levelling up” last summer.

The full memberships of all 15 Lancashire councils are currently being asked to approve the draft proposal drawn up by their leaders, with Blackpool and Fylde both set to vote in early February.

However, of the 11 authorities which have already considered the matter, two - Preston and Burnley - inserted amendments respectively seeking to broaden the scope of any deal and strengthen the accountability of whatever body is ultimately established to oversee its implementation.

Lancashire County Council leader Phillippa Williamson warned that any deviation from the Lancashire leaders’ agreement “does not promote to government the perception of a Lancashire that is working together and puts the whole process at risk".