Conservatism on the Fylde coast
The announcement on Thursday by Fylde Council that it would be joining Wyre Council in withdrawal of support for the Lancashire Combined Authority initiative in which all (or now the vast majority) of local authorities in Lancashire would come together within a new all Lancashire grouping that includes the County Council in Preston - prompts a back in time look.
In 2009 Blackpool hosted its last major Political Party Conference when the Conservatives opted to make the resort their Annual Conference venue. I believe the local Council was then under majority control of Conservative Members. No more. Like most Lancashire local authorities public sentiment has swung in a different direction to Labour (the Left). On the Fylde coast Blackpool's neighbours with their rural hinterland and more affluent residents (or so it seems from here) have a determinedly Conservative majority (Wyre and Fylde). Both Council's eschew the idea of sharing strategic economic, social and transportation concerns within joined up association of a County wide authority grouping. This is of course taking place during a Conservative Government, whose recent sentiment towards revisiting the resort for conferencing purposes have been an encouraging sign for Blackpool Council's efforts to finally build a new conference facility slap bang in the town centre - great stuff.
It was precisely a parochial class mindset which in the mid 1930s prevented the Blackpool tramway from realising a logical extension southwards to St Annes from the isolated terminus at Starr Gate. Had the casting vote by the local council embedded in its ivory? tower in St Annes been concerned with a broader perspective then Blackpool's modern single deck trams would have taken over from the blue buses then in mind for a joint running service into Blackpool. The economics of a deregulated market instead have seen Blackpool buses absorbing the Lytham St Annes transport operation to complete an integrated Fylde coast service. This however still lacks the logical north south tramway link running from Fleetwood to St Annes (and possibly even on to Lytham and BAE Systems at Warton - god forbid).
As it happens Fylde Council's spurning the Lancashire Combined Authority dimension today coincides with publication of a realistic assessment of the County's challenges and opportunities - by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP). Forty Eight pages of forthright objectives covering everything from economic growth, housing and education (and not forgetting technology and innovation) to inevitably transportation which is extensively dealt with, road, rail, and trams. Well worth reading online.
A brief glimpse back at 2009 when the Conservatives came to town (with their own Blackpool tram - the shortest sponsor deal as far as I recall). Image : John Woodman