NEWLY-promoted Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry has called for an elected Greater Manchester-style Mayor for East Lancashire.

The Rossendale and Darwen MP said he was ‘disappointed’ at the lack of progress on the issue.

In his first full interview since being elevated to Minister of State attending Cabinet, Mr Berry said a combined authority for East Lancashire with an elected politician at its head could boost investment, transport and the economy.

He also threw his new political weight behind major transport improvements, including upgrading the East Lancashire line from Preston to Colne and extending it and the M65 across the Pennines, improving the M66 and creating a direct rail link from Rawtenstall to Central Manchester.

Mr Berry told the Lancashire Telegraph: “I think we should be considering creating a powerful authority, or group of authorities, that covers East Lancashire to really get a voice in the same way Greater Manchester has when we apply for funding.

“I would certainly like to see some form of change in local authorities followed by some real devolution of power and money from the centre. I will do everything I can to assist.

“It needs to be locally-led because the authorities need to agree it and drive it forward.

“In my personal view, devolution works best where you have a Mayor - absolutely an elected Mayor - because it gives one individual person who people can hold to account for the delivery of things like improved services and transport.

“I think there is so much we could do in East Lancashire with a Metro Mayor-style individual like Andy Burnham to fight for international investment to come to Lancashire. That’s where I hope we’ll get to.”

Previous attempts to agree a proposal for a Lancashire-wide combined authority or a smaller one for the east of the county have foundered due to disagreements between the councils.

Mr Berry said: “I’m personally very disappointed that we haven’t made more progress on devolution in Lancashire. I think we’re missing a trick. I just think it’s very unfortunate that local authorities in Lancashire haven’t been able to agree a way forward.”

Mr Berry then moved on to road and rail links.

He said: “I have a long-term ambition to punch the M65 all the way through to Yorkshire. I think that will create real growth in the M65 corridor.

“In Rossendale, the M66 is absurdly congested.

“In the long-term restoring a rail link from Rawtenstall to central Manchester must be a target.

“The real challenge we have is that people are desperate to live here because it’s an amazing place but we have to enable people to go to work outside of East Lancashire.”