Campaign launched to turn Blackpool into combined authority

Blackpool Town Hall

A campaign has been launched to transform Blackpool and other local areas into a combined authority with a directly elected mayor after plans were stalled due to the pandemic.

If successful, the move would establish a new mayoral post that would be the most powerful political office in the Blackpool region.

Currently, Blackpool Council is a single, unitary local authority – meaning that it has both the powers and responsibilities of a county council and a district, city or borough council.

The founder of the ‘Democracy to Blackpool’ campaign, Jenny Ainsworth said: “Blackpool must move with the times and get more democratic representation and devolution from Westminster.

“Greater Manchester has Andy Burnham, Sheffield has Dan Jarvis, but here in Blackpool – a large area and the North’s entertainment capital – we don’t have anyone as powerful and our voices aren’t heard as much.”

The campaign wants local government reorganisation plans to resume ‘as quickly as possible.’

A combined authority approach would see a new super-council covering Blackpool, Fleetwood, Cleveleys, Garstang and Poulton-le-Flyde run by a directly elected mayor with a political mandate from the public.

This executive model would have more devolved powers over strategic planning, policing and potentially NHS services in the region.

Speaking on having more opportunities, Mrs Ainsworth added: “If we go through with a combined authority and the plans are approved, then we could receieve £500 million of investment for our region.

“For the whole of Lancashire, we could also get £160 billion for housing investment in our area, so really, I’m urging all local councils to follow suit.”

In June last year, the leaders of all 15 local authorities in Lancashire voted for the principles of a combined authority model with an elected county mayor.

But due to the Coronavirus pandemic, plans for these proposals were halted and delayed.

The leader of South Ribble Borough Council Cllr Paul Foster, who initially supported the plans, said: “The proposals submitted are exceptionally poor quality and lack any detail.

“We will do everything in our power to ensure this doesn’t occur – even using the High Court if needs be.”

Blackpool Council’s official stance is that it supports this model and is currently waiting on the publication of a white paper on devolution which is expected in the autumn.