Transport governance in Lancashire will be shaken up if a proposal to establish an elected mayor-led combined authority comes to fruition.
Lancashire County Council’s cabinet this month endorsed the principle of a mayoral combined authority (MCA) and has asked the full council to support it too.
Angie Ridgwell, Lancashire’s chief executive, said the Government might look more favourably on the area when distributing grants if an MCA were in place.
“Evidence from recent combined authority activity and funding deals illustrates starkly how Lancashire could be missing out,” she said. “The new West Yorkshire Combined Authority benefitted significantly from the recent [DfT] Transforming Cities funding whilst Lancashire’s award fell well short of the bidding scenarios.”
An MCA could also open the door to the area striking a devolution deal with the Government, she added.
In all, 15 local authorities are considering the MCA proposal: Lancashire County Council, the 12 Lancashire districts, and the unitary authorities of Blackpool, and Blackburn with Darwen. The unitaries were formed out of Lancashire County Council in the late 1990s and are the local transport authorities for their areas.
“A combined authority requires the consensus of all participating authorities,” said Ridgwell. “This has consistently proved challenging for Lancashire and while it may be possible to move forward if one or two authorities on the periphery of the pan-Lancashire boundary were not engaged, undoubtedly a stronger case could be made to government if all 15 move forward together.”
The MCA would become the local transport authority for the area. Lancashire, Blackpool, and Blackburn with Darwen would remain the local highway authorities.
If enough authorities agree to the principle of an MCA then a governance review will be commissioned to review different governance models, with the findings put to a public consultation. An application would then be submitted to ministers.
Ridgwell said ministers might require local government reorganisation – i.e. scrapping the existing two-tier structure of local government in Lancashire – as a condition for authorising an MCA.
Cambridgeshire is the only two-tier shire county covered by an MCA. The authorities in two-tier North Yorkshire are also exploring the MCA model in partnership with the unitary authority of York (LTT 07 Feb).
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