Lancashire Combined Authority
The request to form a Combined Authority for Lancashire was submitted in June and the shadow Combined Authority held its first meeting on 11 July 2016. The new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has written to confirm they are considering our proposals and will be in touch shortly to discuss the way forward. We expect the Combined Authority to be formally established from April 2017. In the interim period Councillor Simon Blackburn, Leader of Blackpool Council, has been elected as Chair of the shadow Combined Authority and Councillor Alistair Bradley, Leader of Chorley Council, has been elected as Vice-Chair.
Work programme and activity
The shadow Combined Authority is now developing a Lancashire Plan which will set out a vision for Lancashire based on the five core themes – Skilled Lancashire; Better Homes for Lancashire; Connected Lancashire; Prosperous Lancashire and Public Services Working for Lancashire. Each of these themes will be underpinned by an action plan with clear timescales for delivery with political leads for each theme to oversee direction and delivery. To deliver the work programme a number of small officer groups will be established. Some of these are already in place from existing groups.
The shadow Combined Authority has recently secured £310k funding from the One Public Estate programme (£50k phase one; £260k phase two). This funding will support feasibility studies on a number of partner projects across Lancashire as well as providing officer capacity to deliver the programme. The One Public Estate programme is an initiative delivered in partnership by the Cabinet Office Government Property Unit and the Local Government Association, providing practical and technical support and funding to councils to deliver property-focused programmes in collaboration with central government and other public sector partners. This is a rolling programme and the shadow Combined Authority will be making future bids for funding.
Progress to negotiate a Lancashire devolution deal
Over recent months Leaders have been developing a proposal for devolution to the Lancashire Combined Authority, which could enable greater control, power and influence over a range of programmes and funding delivered in Lancashire. These include a Growth and Productivity Fund worth £900m, devolved funding for strategic transport and development; influence and/or control over employment and skills programmes and delivery; housing funding; growth funding and aligning investment activity. Officers continue to work with civil servants at BEIS to highlight Lancashire’s progress and position. However, we are in a queue as Government wish to focus on signing off devolution deals with those areas which have already started negotiations.
The shadow Combined Authority is meeting on a monthly basis with a view to becoming formally established from April 2017. Leaders have already agreed a Scheme of Governance which sets out voting arrangements and membership and the shadow Combined Authority are operating within these same principles.
What is a Combined Authority?
Lancashire's councils already work closely together but a combined authority is a formal, legal step that means councils can act as one authority in the best interests of Lancashire around the areas of economic regeneration, housing and transport.
A combined authority is:
- a formal, legal step to allow councils to work more closely together in a more structured way
- a move to improve economic development, skills and transport to benefit the whole county
A combined authority is not:
- a merger or take-over of councils or a unitary council
- a giving-up of powers by individual councils
The creation of a Combined Authority is something that is being replicated across the country with many bids already approved by the Government.
What are the benefits of becoming a combined authority?
A combined authority means that councils can work as one democratically accountable body around the key areas of economic development, regeneration and transport to:
- avoid duplication and provide more efficient services
- create a stronger basis for bidding for Government and EU money
- make best use of council and Government money
- speed up decision-making.
A combined authority could streamline services, be more transparent and efficient, and make it easier for Lancashire to attract investment and jobs.