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Council looks at its 'suitors'

HYNDBURN Council is set to decide if it wants to "pair up" with another authority under a new round of local government reorganisation.

HYNDBURN Council is set to decide if it wants to "pair up" with another authority under a new round of local government reorganisation.

People in the North West will vote on plans for a new Regional Assembly in a referendum next year.

If the result is "yes'' there would then be too many tiers of local government and the existing system of county council and borough council would have to be replaced.

Options for Hyndburn would include being "swallowed up'' by Blackburn or merging with the Ribble Valley, Burnley or perhaps Rossendale.

At a meeting of the full council in Accrington Town Hall next Wednesday the ruling Tory group will propose an amalgamation with the Ribble Valley. But the Labour opposition is unconvinced.

Group leader Councillor Jean Battle warned: "The Ribble Valley is an extremely wealthy area and we are a poor area. We get special Pathfinder money so we would lose the extra benefits that are coming into the borough.

"If Hyndburn merged with the Ribble Valley it would stack up to about 120,000 people. We need around 300,000 people to make sure we can compete with the bigger areas like Manchester and Liverpool.''

She added: "As a party we are in favour of the Regional Assembly. But we are not happy with the numbers as there would be only 35 members representing around seven million people.

"However, instead of someone in London telling us what's good for us we would have our own mini-parliament with a pot of money to solve our own problems.

"Blackburn is already a unitary authority and could say to Hyndburn, 'Come in with us'."

Deputy leader of the Tories, Councillor Jim Dickinson, said his party would not agree to merging with either Blackburn or Burnley Councils.

He said: "Regional government is a step-by-step process away from two tiers to a unitary authority. This effectively eliminates the county council unless it can come up with a different format.

"As a concept the Conservatives are opposed to regional government as it effectively destroys the evolution of the shire counties.

"We would also be concerned about the proportion of elected representatives in the assembly compared to the population. This is completely opposite to getting government nearer to the people.

"Hyndburn has been tremendously successful in attracting £50m of investment into the district and we see these sort of integrated skills as more allied towards the Ribble Valley. We do not see ourselves as a second or third rate satellite of either Blackburn or Burnley. We have proved ourselves and intend to continue to do so."

A meeting will take place at the Clayton Business Park on Tuesday, starting at 6.30pm, when the public can air their views to councillors, county councillors and members of the Local Strategic Partnership.

The Boundary Commission has set a deadline of 8 September for all local authorities to put forward their preferred options before the referendum is staged next year.


Stuart Pike
Deputy editor specialising in politics
Alex Bell
Bethany English
District reporter
Beth Abbit
Court reporter
Jon Macpherson
Kate Watkins
Reporter specialising in communities
Garth Dawson
Photographer and columnist