Devolve power to locality says Wyre leader

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Scottish vote a boost for local unitary hopes

Wyre Council leader Coun Peter Gibson has a ‘small is beautiful’ message for those debating the devolution of power following the Scottish Referendum result.

Coun Gibson, who recently wrote to Communities secretary Eric Pickles outlining his ambitions for Wyre to become a unitary authority responsible for all local services, stressed there is still much confusion about who provides which services locally - the county or borough councils and said:“I think the debate has moved in our direction in terms of devolving power.”

He said: “73 per cent of Council Tax raised in Wyre goes to the County Council and 73 per cent of that is then moved to east Lancashire somewhere. That’s the whole issue, the tax raised in Wyre should stay in Wyre and be used for Wyre residents.”

Arguing that in past regional funding initiatives Wyre missed out with cash going to Manchester, Liverpool and everywhere but Wyre, he said: “We do need devolved government but we need it on a more localised basis...

“If the government, whatever colour the government is, is promising Scotland this devolution they must do that locally as well.”

Coun Gibson told Mr Pickles in a letter dated August 18: “Wyre does not have the same social problems that some areas have so there would not be the same strain on services if we were a unitary.”

He also claimed:“The dead hand of LCC (Lancashire County Council) is holding back enterprising district councils in Lancashire ...”

Coun Gibson noted Chorley and Wyre would be prepared to work together to pursue their separate ambitions to become unitary councils. But he was “reluctant to have my officers spending time putting the case together if there is no chance of us being successful”.

As yet Mr Pickles has not replied. Meanwhile Garstang resident Steve Johnson, managing director of a company with interests on both sides of the Scottish border was relieved at the Referendum’s no vote. Steve of Paper Innovation Ltd. said: “We enjoy the benefits of financial expertise in Scotland and manufacturing supremacy in England.”