PLANS to shake up local government could spell the end for Hyndburn Council if voters give them the go-ahead.
The Boundary Committee for England has published a list of three options for the proposed re-organisation, which will take place next year if a referendum on setting up a North West Regional Assembly returns a "yes" vote.
Members of the public are now being consulted over the three options, and a shortlist of two will be presented to the Government in May.
The referendum could then take place as early as the autumn, and if a regional assembly was given the go-ahead, voters would then be asked to select one of the two remaining options for local government.
The three proposed options are:
- Introducing one unitary authority to provide local government services to the whole of Lancashire, although there are concerns that the size of the population in the area could make it difficult to effectively represent all residents and deliver services throughout.
- Forming one unitary authority to cover East Lancashire, made up of the disbanded Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Ribble Valley, part of Rossendale, and Blackburn with Darwen Councils. The advantage of this system would be the inclusion of Blackburn with Darwen, which already acts as a unitary authority and has a track record of delivering the full range of services.
- Splitting East Lancashire into two, with Hyndburn, Blackburn with Darwen and the Ribble Valley forming one unitary authority, and Burnley, Pendle and part of Rossendale forming another. This could counter concerns over the size of a single East Lancashire unitary authority.
Councillor Peter Britcliffe, leader of Hyndburn Council, said that he was disappointed the shortlist did not take into account his party's proposal of merging Hyndburn with the Ribble Valley.
He added: "The proposals would mean an end to democracy as we know it. Within any big unitary authority, who is going to care about a back street in Rishton or Huncoat?
"It leaves the people of Hyndburn with Hobson's Choice - come the referendum, they must say no to regional government. Any other outcome will be the death knell for smaller authorities like Hyndburn."
But Councillor Jean Battle, leader of the opposition, said that her party was happy with two of the proposals - a Lancashire-wide authority or a single East Lancashire authority - but would prefer to keep the current system.
Hyndburn MP Greg Pope said that his preferred options would be either one single or two separate authorities covering East Lancashire.
He added: "My constituents are being let down by the current two-tier system as it doesn't deliver the services as well as it might. This isn't the fault of the people who work for them, it is the structures that are in place.
"It is about finding a system that works for everyone and I am very much for the idea of unitary authorities."
A spokesman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said that the re-organisation would be necessary if a regional assembly was introduced to avoid having three tiers of local government.
But he added no local government shake-up would take place if the public voted against setting up a regional assembly.