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Crunch meeting for future of Lancashire Combined Authority

The prospects of a seeing a combined authority for Lancashire were dealt a blow yesterday (Thursday) as four council leaders declared themselves out of any negotiations to secure a devolution deal from central government.

The move came as all 15 councils were invited to a crunch meeting to determine who was in or out of progressing the Lancashire Combined Authority, which would see millions of pounds of funding diverted into Lancashire.

The remaining 11 council leaders will reconsider the next steps with a meeting already set up with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid in the coming days.

Councillor Simon Blackburn, chair of the shadow combined authority, said: “It is really disappointing to see certain councils turn down the opportunity to get us to a stage where we can take on more powers from the Government and have more of an influence over what happens here in Lancashire.

“You only have to look at this week’s budget where areas that are working together through combined authority models are seeing millions of pounds being given to them to invest in their locality and Lancashire didn’t get a penny.

“The credibility of Lancashire is at stake here and I’ve not met a single person from the business community who doesn’t think this is a good idea for Lancashire.”

Councillor Blackburn will meet with Government ministers next week seeking clarity over:

* whether the Government will consider working with 11 of the Lancashire councils
* whether the minister and fellow cabinet members will put pressure on Conservative colleagues to support what is Government policy
* whether the process is now a waste of time

The four councils not wishing to take part in the combined authority process are Wyre, Ribble Valley, Fylde and Lancashire County Council.

The remaining council leaders will also be seeking clarity over why the four councils do not want to take part and what would encourage them to get back around the table.

“I’ll be meeting with the Government minister and civil servants next week to see where we go from here,” said Councillor Blackburn.

“As a group we’ve done all we can to get everyone to take part but for whatever reason some councils don’t think it’s the right thing to do and we have to respect that.

“It really does pain me to see other areas getting significant amounts of money to invest in things like transport, housing and infrastructure and we will get left behind.

“The door will remain open for those councils to come back into the fold and in the meantime the rest of us will wait and see as to what comes of next week’s meeting with the Government.”

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