ROSSENDALE is the latest borough council to voice concerns or queries about the proposed Lancashire Combined County Authority.

Conservative-run Ribble Valley Council recently said it supports some Lancashire devolution ideas but also had concerns about the proposed lack of voting powers for districts and how cash from the government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund might be distributed in future, if available.

Now Labour-run Rossendale has given its feedback and said the devolution proposals fall short of delivering similar benefits for Lancashire to those seen in areas such as Greater Manchester and the Liverpool region.

Under a plan unveiled in November,  a new Lancashire Combined County Authority would be led by Lancashire County Council, Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool councils. No voting powers are expected for districts such as Rossendale.

In a statement, Labour Cllr Alyson Barnes, Rossendale Council leader, said: “We recognise the potential a devolution deal for Lancashire could have. But the current proposal falls short in addressing many key concerns of districts.

“We’d like a more robust and inclusive plan to truly benefit our communities and unlock Lancashire’s full potential.

"There’s a distinct lack of inclusion for districts, raising concerns that the main benefits may disproportionately favour the three main upper-tier councils, leaving districts at a distinct disadvantage.”

In a report to a recent special council meeting, Rossendale Council laid-out its concerns. These include future management of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF). This is a government scheme launched after Brexit which replaces old European Union regional development cash. It is currently worth £43m to Lancashire districts. Rossendale wants to see continued responsibility for this at district council level.  

Cllr Barnes added: “Our allocation of more than £2m is assisting a wide range of projects and organisations,across the valley focusing on local priorities that potentially would not have been funded by a central allocation.

“Changing to a more remote arrangement with a limited understanding of local needs and requirements will lead to failure. A one-size-fits-all approach just wouldn’t work.”

The provision of £6m to the Samlesbury Enterprise Zone and £6m to the Blackburn Technology Innovation Quarter are welcome investments. But the scale and geographic impact, specifically in East Lancashire, are limited, Rossendale Council added.

It believes the level of cash needed to support connectivity, access to opportunities and a sustainable economy  – and specific east Lancashire challenges – is far-greater than that proposed.

The new authority plan also raises governance concerns, because district councils are not ‘constituent members’ with voting powers. Rossendale Council wants to emphasise the pivotal role of districts in understanding and representing local communities, which it feels would be lost under the new plan.

Expanding eligibility for the Cosy Homes in Lancashire scheme through an additional £2m is supported. But the scale of funding across the whole county is not enough to make a significant impact, the council added.

In addition, a fully resourced climate change strategy for all Lancashire is required that reflects excellent work being done by district councils. For example, Rossendale’s Net Zero Streets programme has the potential for national recognition and adoption, the council said.

Cllr Barnes added: “The current proposals need to be more ambitious. And we want to stress the importance of involving and planning comprehensively, to ensure district councils are meaningfully represented and engaged in Lancashire’s broader devolution strategy, if the deal is to be a success.”