THE districts of Hyndburn could get their own elected town councils in a dramatic "power to the people" move.
Plans for a massive reshaping of local government, to go hand in hand with changing the council’s name from Hyndburn to Accrington and District, were being put before a special meeting last night.
They would see all the councils which existed before 1974, and perhaps even Baxenden and Huncoat, running their own show with elected members who would be responsible for managing their own budgets and making decisions directly affecting their towns.
Hyndburn, or Accrington and District, Council would continue as an umbrella organisation responsible for such things as strategic planning, refuse collection and taxi licensing.
There are already plans to put the scheme out to a borough-wide referendum.
It is envisaged that Great Harwood would be the first district to run its council as a pilot scheme, and others could then be rolled out across the borough.
Revealing the plan exclusively to the Observer, council leader Peter Britcliffe said: "This is continuing the devolution revolution which we started with the formation of area councils in 1999.
"We are made up of a number of townships which are all well-known and well-loved. People feel close to these townships and identify with them, not with Hyndburn as a whole."
He said Great Harwood had been chosen to pilot the scheme as he thought the town had the strongest separate identity.
He added: "People tell us they want to make their own decisions and Great Harwood is a classic example. It has displayed a fierce independence and the townsfolk don’t want decisions being made by people from outside the town.
"It is the right size, a good geographical area and has activists ready and available to make it a success. If town councils can work anywhere, I feel quite confident they will work in Great Harwood."
He added: "We need to recognise that different areas have different needs. Some are poor and some affluent. We need to harness the energies of people in each town and use them to their full potential."
Councillor Britcliffe said he envisaged the new councils having more Independent members, like parish councils, wanting to do their best for the town.
He added: "This a radical shake-up, a massive change. It is not totally without cost but we would be looking to contain it within the existing budget.
"Many of the exact details have yet to be ironed out but the question is whether people want to be responsible for running their own town. I feel this will command the support of the majority of people."
The move, made possible by new Government legislation due to be passed in the coming weeks, would probably mean the end of the existing area councils.
Councillor Lynn Wilson, chairman of Great Harwood Area Council, said: "This is a great idea and I think the people of Great Harwood will be delighted. It’s about time local people had a say in issues affecting their towns."
Councillor Peter Clarke, who also represents the town, said: "People in Great Harwood have never liked the idea of being a part of Accrington. They have always wanted their own identity."
And the move could command all-party support as Councillor Graham Jones, leader of the Labour group, said his party had been lobbying for over two years for town and parish councils.
He said: "We are really pleased that the Tories have listened. The fact that they have appreciated the effort we have put in and are taking on board some of our ideas is great."