What should the future look like for Lancashire?

Councillors debated a "high level" view of the county's future
Councillors debated a "high level" view of the county's future
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Councillors have clashed over their competing visions for the future of Lancashire.

They were discussing Lancashire County Council’s corporate strategy, which lays out the ambitions for the region and its residents over the coming years.

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The document describes the authority’s aim for the county to be a “place people choose to create a home, raise their children, develop a career and grow old in”.

But coming just moments before members discussed a budget which included £77m of savings, the debate was politically charged.

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“This is something for the people of Lancashire - it is to show them what we are trying to do for them,” cabinet member for highways, Keith Iddon, said.

“We’re trying to bring industry and tourism here - it’s not a perfect world, but we have to start somewhere.”

The strategy outlines plans to attract businesses and visitors to the county, with an aim to become “the destination of choice for leisure, sporting and cultural activities”. It also pledges that residents from all backgrounds will have the opportunity to acquire the skills they need to prosper.

But it was a claim in the document that the county council would support and protect the vulnerable which proved contentious. Labour’s Erica Lewis said that it did not “reflect the reality” of reductions in funding for council services.

“There is a deep flaw in the cruel individualism this document presents. If you look at the 2015 version [written under Labour], it talks about the need to stand by our residents, whereas this document says you are on your own,” County Cllr Lewis said.

The Conservative, George Wilkins, argued that some aspects of the vision - and the budget which was to follow - had been born out of necessity.

“When the money is not there, we have to make cuts. We are having to face the reality that the voluntary sector is going to take on [more] responsibility,” he said.

“When we have 3,500 charities in Lancashire, they are going to have to be part of the consultation with regards to [undertaking] some of the wonderful [work] which we solely funded in the past.”

Councillors of all colours also accused each other of promoting their own “ideologies”.

“[This document] says that we’re stepping back as a county council, [and] you’re just going to have to get on with it,” Labour's Lizzie Collinge said.

“If you need help or support, then we might signpost you to the [voluntary] sector, which is already stretched to breaking point - it is riven with small-state ideology.”

But cabinet member for adult services, Graham Gooch, said that people did not want to be reliant on that state.

“We know what Labour ideology is - it’s to create dependency and keep people in residential care when they would much rather be at home.

“We will continue to provide care for people who cannot provide for themselves - but people want to provide for themselves,” County Cllr Gooch added.