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Lancashire faces prospect of ‘Levelling Down’ as ‘Levelling Up’ White Paper ignores county

Lancashire faces a decade of being ‘levelled down’ following the publication of the government’s ‘levelling up’ White Paper earlier this week, according to Frank McKenna.

Lancashire faces a decade of being ‘levelled down’ following the publication of the government’s ‘levelling up’ White Paper earlier this week, according to Frank McKenna, the Group chairman and chief executive of private sector lobby group and business networking club Downtown in Business.

Mr McKenna said:

“We have been consistently calling on the county’s politicians to get their act together, come up with a vision and a plan that creates a modernised local governance structure that is fit-for-purpose for the twenty-first century.

“Instead, we have seen bluff, bluster, and confusion, with Councillors from County Hall and some of the districts putting their own parochial and personal preferences, before the good of Lancashire.

“What Levelling Up minister Michael Gove has made absolutely clear in his White Paper is that there is an opportunity for all places to benefit from devolved structures – and with that will come extra cash. If we maintain our current three-tier council structure in Lancashire, then we will be relegated from the slow lane to the hard shoulder as far as economic development, inward investment and regeneration is concerned.

“It is simply not good enough, and it is time now for the private sector to step up our efforts and demand long overdue change.”

Mr McKenna pointed out that whilst Lancashire is not named in Gove’s policy document, Greater Manchester is in line to become a ‘trailblazer’ Combined Authority, providing local mayor Andy Burnham and local authorities in the region additional powers and resources. As part of this new deal, Greater Manchester will receive £100 million of new government funding to turbo-charge local growth through an innovation cluster, which will look to replicate the success from the MIT-Boston and Stanford-Silicon Valley models.

“It is disappointing, if not surprising, that Lancashire has once again failed to make the Whitehall cut. The abandonment of the county’s city of culture bid, an inward- looking leadership at County Hall, and a lack of ambition from political leadership across the board as far as devolution is concerned, have combined to leave Lancashire on the periphery of the ‘levelling up’ agenda. 

However, the Downtown boss, a former deputy leader of Lancashire County Council and leader of the Northwest Regional Assembly, concluded that there was still a route out of the darkness for political leaders to take. “The White Paper offers an opportunity for areas to get a devolution deal if they want one. That must now be Lancashire’s aim. If our politicians fail to take that opportunity, then the county will fall further behind its neighbours in Manchester, Liverpool, and across the Pennines in West Yorkshire. That would be a dereliction of duty and an act of wilful self-harm.”

Downtown in Business