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COVID recovery before Council reorganisation

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Red Rose Lancashire

The Conservative Administration at Lancashire County Council (LCC) has put forward to Government their “Proposition for Local Government Reorganisation in Lancashire” to scrap the current arrangements of local councils and established three unitary authorities for the whole of Lancashire. The timing of this proposal has been strongly criticised by the Lancashire Labour Group. As it will distract local councils from their responsibility to provide support and service for local communities during the COVID-19 Crisis.

Cllr Azhar Ali, Labour Leader said “Local people are looking to the council to support them through the COVID Crisis with LCC being the lead authority. Yet people in Pendle could not get a COVID test over the weekend and Skelmersdale residents where being told they had to go to Blackburn to be tested. Labour Leader, Sir Keir Starmer has said that the ‘test and trace system’ is on the verge of collapse’, teetering on the edge “at the very time we need the most effective testing system.”

Geoff Driver and his County Hall Conservatives should be putting the people of Lancashire First. This rushed proposal will only add to the problems gripping the country during COVID.”

The people of Lancashire deserve better than a rushed document aimed at ironically improving local democracy. The Conservatives proposition has not been before Cabinet, Full Council or any form of scrutiny committee before being sent to the Government. It also has not been considered by the councils it is proposing to scrap or by the Lancashire People it is supposed to serve.

This proposition is a stepping stone to a new local government structure providing a Mayor for Lancashire, Combined Authority with the Unitary Authorities.

Elections earlier this year where cancelled due to COVID and this proposition requests further cancelling local elections in Lancashire for two years including the Police and Crime Commissioner election giving elected councillors 6-year terms without people having their say.

Cllr Azhar Ali, Labour Leader said “This County Council proposition by the ruling Conservative’s will result in Conservatives county councillors keeping their jobs for another year rather than being accountable to the Lancashire public. Watching Boris badly mishandle this national crises; from Dominic Cummings 240 mile eye test disgrace, the care homes scandal to the recent school exams fiasco and now furlough, Lancashire’s Conservatives are all running scared of next year’s May elections.”

The document has been rushed completely missing Wyre Council off the map (page 10). It identifies no new resources from Government. It does not rule out council tax increases, cuts to services, widespread contracting out or redundancies. The proposition makes savings predictions but with little evidence and fails to identify how these savings will be made.

During this time of national crisis, Lancashire County Council should be building resilience into our communities with the council supporting the development of a strong economic base in Lancashire and looking to prioritise workers jobs, not their own, providing people some confidence, despite these difficult times that Lancashire County Council are on their side.

This is time when Lancashire’s Conservatives should not be bringing uncertainty and confusion to Lancashire but looking towards providing recovery and a brighter future for everyone.”

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