Devolution for Warrington – which way to turn?
Residents of Warrington look at least three different ways. To Manchester, Liverpool, and south to Cheshire.
English Devolution obliges Councils to figure out whose organisation to join… and it is not always easy or obvious. The citizens of Chesterfield recently found themselves at the centre of a High Court challenge when Derbyshire CC objected to a decision that they should join the new Sheffield Combined Authority. The problem was that no-one had properly consulted the residents themselves.
Warrington is known to have flirted with joining the Liverpool City Region – and possibly even Manchester. But this week, Warrington Council made its decision and chose to join the Cheshire Partnership. Not everyone is happy; the MP for Warrington North, Helen Jones, thinks they’ve got it wrong, and a public consultation scheduled for this Summer could be controversial.
The Council Leader has no such doubts. Cllr Terry O’Neill, welcomed the deal and said the devolved powers would enable the council to play a ‘key role’ in the Northern Powerhouse. Warrington is a growing and vibrant borough and it’s vital that we do everything in our power to maximise this potential,’ he said. ‘We are in agreement that the model of devolved powers from Whitehall would place us in the strongest position to realise our ambitions.’
‘As public finances become increasingly challenging, having local decision-making powers over significant areas of national government spend on local services, would be hugely beneficial for Warrington,’ Cllr O’Neill continued. ‘It would also leave us well placed to play a key role in the proposed ‘Northern Powerhouse’.
A final decision will be made by the full council at its meeting in July 2017. But before then all constituent Councils will need to consult their residents and following Sheffield’s failure to defend a legal challenge by Derbyshire CC* in December, they will have to be considerably better than some of the botched-up exercises undertaken elsewhere.
Good luck Warrington!
*R (ex parte Derbyshire CC) v Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham & Sheffield Combined Authority and the Sec of State for Communities & Local Government and Chesterfield Borough Council.  EWHC 3355