Published July 10, 2020 at 9:14
You may have recently read in the press there has been agreement amongst that Lancashire Councils that there will be a combined authority and an elected Mayor. You may have also seen that this is conditional upon there being some form of local government re-organisation (LGR) – that is a change in the number of Councils and their boundaries, probably to a small number of single tier, Unitary Councils across Lancashire. There will be no two tier of County and District like there is currently across most of Lancashire (excluding Blackpool and Blackburn).
A combined authority is in simple terms where Councils group together and agree to have a layer of local government (the Combined Authority) which sits above them over a larger geographical area and they give some of their existing powers to the combined authority to exercise. Often a devolution deal also goes with a combined authority and this is where Government give some of their powers to the combined authority along with funding.
Plans for a Lancashire Combined Authority (LCA) have been around for the last 4 years. However full agreement could never be reached on how it might work but now it does seem like this matter will be progressing. Areas like Greater Manchester and Liverpool already have combined authorities and an elected Mayor. It appears that an LCA may be progressing now as it seen as important in any recovery plan after the coronavirus pandemic and it is more of a priority for the current Government than it was for the previous one bogged down in Brexit.
Councils in Lancashire are currently discussing what the LCA will look like with a shadow LCA being formed in the 2020/21 financial year. Any potential devolution deal is likely to be agreed in 2022. For our members in Police it is likley the Mayor will replace the Police and Crime Commissioner. This is at a very early stage and we do not yet know what this will look like or what any Council re-organisation will look like but it will mean considerable changes and it is likely there will be many jobs lost as has happened with the Manchester & Liverpool restructures.
UNISON will be speaking to all Councils over the coming weeks and months to ensure that our members and the wider public sector workforce’s views are taken into account in this process. UNISON will also keep you informed on any developments in this process which will unfold over the next few years. It’s important if your colleagues are not aware of these changes that you let me know and encourage them to join UNISON, together we have a larger, stronger voice
The elections across Lancashire in May 2021 at local Councils (particularly the County Council) and for the Police and Crime Commissioner will clearly therefore be crucial in shaping the combined authority and future landscape of local government and our public services.