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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

All Change

Government policies remain immune to the stresses of a pandemic inasmuch as future planning and adjustment to the status quo requires constant attention - and political decision making. Perhaps not making front page headlines but just as important for local readers are stated changes to the composition of the Lancashire Palatinate. From a seeming myriad of local authorities administering a mosaic of boundaries from the Pennines to the Irish Sea and Morecambe Bay - a slimmed down governmental setup is set to emerge by 2022.

With the proferring of chunks of new funding to be applied for administering a 'new look' County from central government coffers - conclaves of Lancashire's diverse council bodies are having to agree on slimmed down administrative boundaries - removing in one swoop the befuddling mix of existing local authorities. Understandably this has an immediate impact on umpteen Councillors and their fiefdoms, setting in motion a barrage of challenges and conflicting stances pitting Party interests amid political turf wars. No public body is immune from the fall-out of this rolling stone. Unitary Authorities such as Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen; the County Council itself and the City Governments of both Preston and Lancaster are caught up in discourse with thirteen (or more) Local Authorities including Wyre, Fylde, Ribble Valley, Chorley, South Ribble and the rest all the way to Colne.

A preferred solution is creation of a three tier County - Central Lancashire, West Lancashire and the eastern swathe of Lancashire; each administered as Unitary Authorities. Both Preston and Lancaster would be combined within the West Lancashire tier thus incorporating all of the Fylde and Wyre as well as Blackpool. This is but one of several conjoined suggestions on the table. No doubt the final recommended local government reorganisation format will be of a different complexion entirely.

Blackpool would be the only part of any agreed new grouping which has a light rail system - and operate its local transport under public ownership. The aspirations of the town at this time to seek an all-electric transport capability both bus and light rail - could well be enhanced within a wider local government structure. As is the potential for light rail connectivity across the western half of Lancashire taking in Morecambe, Lancaster, Garstang and most of Preston's urban reach including Salmesbury.

Certainly the structure, administration and both economic and political strengths of the County (as a whole) will benefit enormously in the medium and longer term. What is certain is that the present makeup of Lancashire and its seemingly ad hoc local government structure are barriers to establishing a credible regional platform suited to socio-economic growth in the 21st Century.

Added to all this disparity is the pressing need for strengthened east west transport corridors connecting the assets of Liverpool, Manchester and contiguous coastline facing the Atlantic with England's east coast hubs serving Scandinavia, the Baltic and northern Germany. Already pressures on Westminster desk warriors to take seriously the importance of the HS3 rail corridor are apparent - particularly when set against the top heavy funding applied to the capital's insatiable demands for ever more Crossrail add-ons.

The Vikings established their capital at York after arriving on these islands. The Romans opted for a crossing of the Thames in what was to become London having arrived here via a cross channel voyage. For a time Colchester became the focal point for Rome's administration of its new territories - until local tribes showed dissatisfaction with the Roman way of doing things. After Rome's legions tackled their own original version of 'Brexit', London more or less achieve permanent status as England's capital - being much closer to the continent of Europe. The Thames crossing point also benefitted from Roman appetite for creating highways radiating outwards, that ran more or less in straight lines facilitating rapid movement of legions to furthermost parts of these islands. Thus emerged an early sort of HS2 complex without rails, which became embedded as Britain's transport arteries.

In time Lancashire played its own role building on Roman engineering and eventually providing the trunk A6 road northwards via Preston, Lancaster and Penrith to Carlisle and from there direct to Scotland's industrial heartland. The railways of course followed suit. What has this to do with the hot topic of local government reorganisation across the county in 2020 you may well ask ? Or indeed with Blackpool's trams and its transport undertaking. This story still has a long way to go. The beginnings of the next chapter is now being penned.




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