A small step for mankind – a huge one for Lancashire

This week the government invited city and county regions to submit their devolution ‘asks’.

It is part of George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse agenda, although, post-election, councils’ from across the country are all being given the opportunity to ‘have a Manchester’ now.

For some time I have bemoaned the fact that Lancashire has been side-lined by the emphasis on cities as the principle economic drivers. As the leader of Lancashire County Council Jenifer Mein pointed out at a Downtown event last week the county region is the third biggest economy in England, and therefore needs to be seen at the heart of any powerhouse, rather than on its periphery.

The government, with some justification, could argue back and say that, unlike Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle, Lancashire had done little to progress a devolution programme itself.

However, at a meeting earlier this week the leaders from twelve districts, the two unitary authorities and Lancashire County Council came together and have devised a strategy to present to the Whitehall mandarins that at least gets the red rose county in the mix.

There will be a consultation with business organisations and other stakeholders about the type of Combined Authority Lancashire should be looking to create, and given the inevitability that a first wave of devolved organisations will go to conurbations with big city hubs, the county is unlikely to be at the vanguard of this initiative.

However, the fact that leaders are talking constructively about progressing a much more efficient, effective and co-ordinated governance structure is a credit to them, and great news for Lancashire’s future.