A NEW Pennine Lancashire all-purpose super-council would not be a Blackburn with Darwen takeover, the latter’s leader has said.

Cllr Mohammed Khan was reacting to strong opposition to the plan as part of county-wide devolution deal from his counterparts in Burnley and Pendle.

As part of a new combined authority for Lancashire with an elected mayor, he and county council leader Cllr Geoff Driver believe the 15 existing councils will have to be replaced by three unitary authorities for the central area, North West and east of the county.

Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn, Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale would likely merge to form the eastern authority.

The government has promised to devolve new powers from Whitehall and an extra £300million over 10 years to a new combined authority and mayor.

Burnley Council leader Cllr Charlie Briggs, said: “We do not accept that setting up new unitary councils should be a condition for the establishment of a Lancashire combined authority.”

His Pendle equivalent Cllr Mohammed Iqbal said:  “Until the government tells us what is in their white paper on devolution, I can’t sign up to what the county council wants us to do.”

Hyndburn’s leader Cllr Miles Parkinson said “I have reservations about an East Lancashire unitary authority without the government money to make a difference.”

He, like Ribble Valley’s boss, Cllr Stephen Atkinson wants to see local referendums before any such major change.

Cllr Khan said: “A new Pennine Lancashire unitary authority is not about a Blackburn with Darwen takeover.

“The council’s position is clear. We favour a combined authority with an elected mayor.

“Reorganising the current system into three all-purpose councils is necessary to achieve that. An East Lancashire unitary would be a new authority not a Blackburn takeover of other councils.”

Cllr Driver said: “For far too long Lancashire has missed out on the benefits of devolution because of internal squabbles about how our structures are organised.  It’s time to break that logjam.

“These bold and ambitious proposals represent a once-in-a-generation change that will transform Lancashire and benefit everyone who lives in this great county.”

Rossendale Council leader Cllr Alyson Barnes backed the change: “I am in favour of a combined authority and unitary council of Pennine Lancashire offering better value and accountability.”

Cllr Azhar Ali, Labour group leader at the 131-year-old county council who represents Nelson East, said; “I’m shocked that while the country is in a crisis, the only thing the Lancashire Conservatives can think about is reorganising the deckchairs on the Titanic to save their own jobs.”

The authority’s Liberal Democrat group boss David Whipp said: “This is not the right thing and not the right time.

“Power must be available at the most local level, so that people are able to influence decisions – to lose that would be a tragedy.”