Considering Lancashire's Devolution From A Business Owner Perspective

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Considering Lancashire’s Devolution From A Business Owner Perspective

As a local Rossendale-based business owner who has lived in various parts of Lancashire before settling here, the future of our region holds a special place in my heart. Lancashire Devolution offers a ray of hope, yet it requires a thoughtful approach to truly unlock its potential. It’s not just about the immediate benefits, but shaping a future that brings prosperity to every corner of our historic county.

I was recently lucky enough to take part in the Lancashire Devolution Consultation, but I am concerned that many members of the public have no idea about the proposals and how this will affect them.

Devolution is a step in the right direction. It promises growth and innovation. However, having heard how the agreement around the type of devolution was decided upon – ie by three council leaders – my concern is the focus of future investment could be limited to the central Lancashire belt. Yes, Preston, Blackpool, and Blackburn are key areas. But there’s more to Lancashire than these areas.

Our region’s success lies in acknowledging its wider connections. We’re part of a bigger picture, linked to dynamic areas like Greater Manchester and Merseyside. These places are not just neighbours. They are part of our shared history and will undeniably be part of our future. Devolution is an opportunity for Lancashire to look outwards, however, it looks to me as though it could make Lancashire politics even more insular.

Chorley, for example, already enjoys a fair share of investment. It stands as a testament to what focused funding can achieve. However, the true potential of Lancashire lies in expanding our vision. Places like Rossendale and Skelmersdale, which are often overshadowed, are ripe with opportunity. Areas such as Rossendale, Darwen, Chorley and Skelmersdale are our gateways to larger economies and deserve our full attention.

Investing in these areas is more than geography. It’s about strategic planning. By nurturing these links, I believe we can create a ripple effect. A stronger Lancashire, more connected to its neighbours, will benefit everyone. Improved transport links and business ventures, innovation zones on our county’s southern borders can ignite innovation and economic activity.

I’m a business owner with bases in both Rossendale and Rotherham. I think this gives me a perspective on the importance of thinking beyond our immediate surroundings.

I believe that engaging in this devolution process is crucial. We need to ensure the investments are spread wisely. They should uplift the entire region, not just a select few areas based on pre-existing political squabbles.

Therefore, I feel that the proposed structure for overseeing this devolution warrants a second look. The current proposal, a Combined County Authority, suggested by Lancashire County Council, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and Blackpool Council, risks becoming a limited, faceless committee made up of the three council leaders.

In contrast, a structure that includes the County Council along with a directly elected Mayor could offer a more democratic and effective way of distributing the benefits of devolution. Such a setup would not only ensure fair representation across Lancashire but would also give our county a unified, influential voice, akin to those seen in other regions with successful mayoral systems.

Sustainable growth is key. We must balance economic advancement with environmental care and social well-being. This approach ensures that development is not just a present-day success but provides a legacy for future generations.

It’s important to acknowledge and harness the rich historical and cultural ties Lancashire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester share. These areas are all integral parts of the Historic County of Lancashire. They continue to share deep-rooted cultural, economic and social connections. By nurturing and expanding these relationships, we can significantly benefit from the economic growth and development of the city regions to Lancashire’s south. 

Strengthening our ties with Merseyside and Greater Manchester – especially in the border areas of Lancashire – not only honours our shared history but also opens doors to mutual opportunities. Collaborative initiatives in areas such as transport, business and cultural exchanges can lead to a more integrated and prosperous regional network, greatly benefiting the ceremonial county of Lancashire and its neighbouring areas.

In light of these considerations, I don’t believe the current devolution deal in its proposed form can fully achieve these objectives. Only by establishing a more unified voice representing the entirety of Lancashire can we accomplish truly holistic and strategic governance. Such an approach is essential to ensure that all parts of the county – in tandem with our neighbours in Merseyside and Greater Manchester – can thrive together. It’s about creating a governance structure that is as dynamic and interconnected as the region it represents, capable of steering Lancashire towards a future of inclusive and sustainable growth.

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