Three councils have pledged to work more closely to attract greater investment and employment into the Morecambe Bay area.
South Lakeland District Council, Lancaster City Council and the Borough of Barrow in Furness say the new partnership will enable more effective economic development activity and bring fresh opportunities.
The first step towards collaboration has already been taken with the leaders of each council signing a Joint Statement of Intent to work together on economic development opportunities.
Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader of South Lakeland District Council, says there is strong evidence to suggest the partnership will be mutually beneficial.
“Instead of working separately to attract investment and encourage growth we will work in partnership and lobby with one voice to allow Morecambe Bay to fulfil its economic potential,” said Cllr Archibald.
In 2016 the three authorities agreed to commission a joint study to explore if there was evidence to support closer working.
The consultants, Mickledore, found that an unusually high proportion of the workforce, 75%, both live and work within the combined area and, whilst the economies of South Lakeland, Lancaster and Barrow have significant differences, there are clear benefits from collaborating on economic development and other important initiatives.
Lawrence Conway, Chief Executive of SLDC, says the partnership will help to make the Morecambe Bay area more competitive.
“This is a new collaborative approach based around a recognised functioning economic area which will help to unlock investment, create more highly paid jobs and maximise new opportunities. In isolation, each council may be missing out on the wider economic opportunities that exist within the Morecambe Bay area. It’s not about replacing existing relationships but working in a way that maximises their effectiveness across the North West and nationally, for the benefit of our communities,” he said.
By working together the partner authorities would share a bigger economic picture; demonstrating strengths in marine engineering, energy generation, nuclear skills, advanced engineering and higher education.
Cllr Eileen Blamire, Leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “Stronger collaboration around Morecambe Bay provides potential strategic advantages for all three councils and the communities we serve. District and county administrative boundaries serve a purpose in terms of public administration but do not necessarily define the economy, which develops around key sectors, supply chains and markets, as well as people and skills.”
Barrow Borough Council’s Leader, Cllr Dave Pidduck, said: “This council has recognised the need to build strong alliances and partnerships to lobby for the area at a regional and national level. Our partnership around Morecambe Bay is a key step towards that. All three local authority areas have unique strengths and will benefit from a collaborative approach to new employment, infrastructure and skills. With key strengths in industry, environment and learning Morecambe Bay will become a significant regional economic voice.”
Ideas include the creation of a Prospectus of Opportunity, setting out the strengths and opportunities for investment and growth across Morecambe Bay and the joint promotion of the area as a great place to live, study and build a career.
The three authorities will now work on developing an action plan.