Devolution of Lancashire

The councils of Lancashire are considering the benefits of combining under a single authority to obtain new powers devolved from central government.  This has been done in Greater Manchester who have agreed to have an elected Mayor.  Other cities and areas are looking at taking it on board.

The 15 councils are Lancashire, Preston, Blackburn with Darwen,  Burnley, Pendle, Hyndburn, Rossendale, Lancaster, Blackpool, West Lancashire, South Ribble, Chorley, Ribble Valley, Wyre and Fylde.  They will each vote on whether to take it forward.  So far 5 councils have agreed and one rejected.

Wyre has voted against as they say no benefits have been identified.  They also claim the government is insistent on an elected Mayor but other councils are ignoring this believing it can be achieved using ‘co-opted members and chairman’.

It should be noted that Greater Manchester has used the co-opted committee system for a long time and have been told a Mayor is essential.

The co-opted system seems reasonable but the idea of the Mayor is to have elected power whereas the co-opted Chairman will not have any legitimacy electorally.   A bit like the appointed European Commission.

 

 

 

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Lancashire County Council budget cuts

Lancashire County Council put a number of proposals forward to reduce their expenditure to meet the allocated budget from the government.

Some headlines are the closure of the Museum of Lancashire on Stanley Street, plus several other museums including Helmshore and Queens Street Mill in Burnley which are interesting presentations of Lancashire’s cotton industry.   Helmshore having a display of Richard Arkwright, born in Preston and inventor of the water frame.

Over half of the Lancashire Libraries are slated to be closed. Some unofficial comment being that areas with 2 libraries will have one closed.  Also rural bus services are to be cut back including the Fleetwood to Wyre Ferry which has been on regional TV.

In some cases it appears the proposal has been made in the hope that it will encourage other funding sources to come forward.  Perhaps the Fleetwood ferry is one and all over the country libraries are being kept open by volunteer staff.

Some comment on the news from an East Lancashire MP was that Lancashire has taken on board Preston bus station and is a waste of money.

Whether thse proposals are approved will be discussed in council this week.

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Ribble Steam Railway announces its Santa Specials

Santa will be riding on the Ribble Steam Railway Santa Specials in Preston on Saturdays and Sundays and one Monday in December 2015.

Saturday 5th, Sunday 6th December 2015

Saturday 12th, Sunday 13th  December 2015

Saturday 19th, Sunday 20th, Monday 21st December 2015

Book on line, usually gets sold out so be quick.

Ribble Steam Railway Santa Specials 2015

Ribble Steam Railway Santa Specials 2015

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Battle of Preston 1715 Commemoration

Preston Historical Society along with the Harris Museum, UCLan and Lancashire Archives are putting on a series of events related to the Battle of Preston, the last battle on English soil.  Also an excellent series of articles in Blog Preston written by Karen Doyle of PHS, linked below.

A sound, light and performance on Church Street. Sunday 15th November 4.30 to 6.30pm.

On 10th November at 1.30pm in the Market Square there will a Proclamation of James III.

Plus several talks, debates and study sessions:

Wednesday 11th November 7.30pm Jacobites in the Archives at Lancashire Archives, Bow Lane.

Wednesday 11th November 7.30pm The Build up to the Battle of Preston, at Garstang URC Hall, small charge.

Saturday 14th November 10am to 4pm Discover the Battle of Preston activity day in Preston Minster.

Sunday 15th November 3pm to 3.50pm Commemorative Service in Preston Minster.

Tuesday 17th November 12.30-1.30pm Reflections on Rebellion, talks and debate with historians from UCLan at the Harris.

Thursday 19th November 12.30-1.30pm Reflections on Rebellion, talks and debate with historians from UCLan at the Harris.

Saturday 21st November 9.30am to 4pm The Jacobite Rebellion study day at UCLan, £10.

Monday 7th December 7.15pm Battle of Preston aftermath, talk by Bill Shannon. Preston Minster, £5.

 

Commemoration events Battle of Preston-1715

Commemoration events Battle of Preston-1715

An excellent series of articles in Blog Preston written by Karen Doyle can be found on the link below:

http://blogpreston.co.uk/author/karen-a-doyle/

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J.Fishwick & Sons of Leyland cease trading

Disappointing news that J.Fishwick of Leyland will cease trading after 108 years.  The last bus service was on Saturday 24th October 2015.  An announcement on their website said that anyone who had paid a deposit on a holiday would be contacted separately and the payment was covered by an insurance bond.   That must be relief to anyone who was worried about losing their money and it’s certainly to their credit that the company took this measure which must have cost them to take out.

An announcement reported in the Chorley Guardian said cashflow was the problem and it was becoming more difficult for small companies to operate.   Stagecoach have taken over the routes and a bus labelled Stagecoach Merseyside was operating last week.

There are quite a lot of small companies operating buses and they do seem to move in and out of routes using small buses. It doesn’t look easy and there have been threats to remove subsidies for rural routes.

Fishwick began trading as a haulage company in 1907 but soon moved in to buses and in the 1960s into holiday trips.   There are several buses in preservation carrying the green livery, one usually in the British Commercial Vehicle Museum in Leyland.  Quite a surprise, sad feeling coupled with some annoyance to find they’ve gone.   The world is a less varied place without them.

John Fishwick & Sons bus

John Fishwick & Sons bus

Read more on our website:

http://www.madeinpreston.co.uk/Road/FishwickBuses.html

 

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Denis Healey RIP and his Preston Effect

Denis Healey, a forceful Londoner brought up as a Yorkshireman, died this weekend at the grand age of 98.  After impressive war service, gaining an MBE in 1945, he joined the Labour Party becoming an MP in 1952.  He was a minister through a turbulent time in British politics between 1964 and 1979 and in the shadow cabinet up to 1987, retiring in 1992.  As new Defence Secretary in 1964 he made decisions that had a major effect in Preston.

The TSR2 was a big project to build Britain’s next bomber. Stuffed with the latest high technology it was a large aircraft to be able to fly at supersonic speed beneath the Iron Curtain at night.  The British aerospace industry had been restructured around the aircraft with Preston’s English Electric Aviation plants transferring to the newly formed British Aircraft Corporation.

On election in 1964 the new government significantly cut defence expenditure and with it the TSR2, which was to be replaced by the American F111, an order that was also later cancelled at some cost.

At the time this resulted in thousands of redundancies, but it also spawned the beneficial era of international collaboration in defence projects. At the Preston area sites this includes; the Anglo French Jaguar, the Anglo-German-Italian Tornado and 4 nation Eurofighter Typhoon which have brought expansion, good jobs and continuity of work to the area despite ups and downs.

Sometimes major disruption can be for the better in the longer term although the cycle continues.

Just a footnote perhaps in the career of Denis Healey. RIP.

TSR2 at RAF Museum Cosford

TSR2 at RAF Museum Cosford

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Re-imagining the Harris Museum

Jon Finch has been given the big role of re-imagining the Harris as a tourist and cultural destination for the region. The Harris is a Grade 1 listed building containing a huge collection of items and has always been a, no, ‘the’ major feature of Preston. The task is to take it a step up.

What will this take? The Harris already is a more substantial cultural attraction than that of any similar sized town or city in the region. Only Manchester and Liverpool beat it and they have single subject galleries and museums bigger than the Harris which is a broader scoped attraction. Re-imagining might need to take in more buildings and more nearby attractions to make that step up. As well as looking at what is exhibited. This is an exciting project, we look forward to learning more.Harris

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Fishergate Centre Improvement

The fairly new mall next to Preston Railway Station is to be given a facelift subject to Council approval.  The £25m development will include a Vue Cinema, new restaurant area and better links into the car park.

It’s an interesting plan to have a restaurant areas in what is a more relaxed spot than most and the cinema can present an alternative activity.

Since Curry’s, Hughes and the Discount Book Store closed the centre has seemed to be reduced as an attraction, this should help recover it.

http://www.fishergatedevelopment.co.uk/

Fishergate Centre Plan

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Preston Bus Station Winning Design

Preston Bus Station’s winning design.  Not the one we’d have preferred as it looks a bit conventional and lacking impact.  Also it sits too close to the Bus Station.  A Grade 2 building is meant to be protected. One of the features of the bus station is its lines which are shortened by the addition.  Also the extension presents a plain wall to the front of the building which will be a cold and lonely place.

Preston Bus Station Winning Design

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Preston Guild Wheel

We thought we’d do a bit of walking on the 21 miles long Preston Guild Wheel circular trail.    To date the only section we’ve walked is from Avenham Park to the Docks or vice versa. Although it’s not exactly tranquil it’s quite decent walking with good river bridge views.

The most obvious start is in Avenham Park and walk either to the Docks or to Brockholes Wildlife Trust Reserve.  Although getting back from Brockholes probably favours parking there and doing a section in either direction and doubling back.

Walking along the Lancaster Canal Millenium Link and north is another decent section.

There are stretches that not walker friendly:  the A6 at Broughton and D’Urton Lane, the section from the Crematorium to the M6 access road and Riversway. Also the route is intersected by main roads.  But otherwise there are some good stretches for fairly peaceful walking and well finished paths.

So now it’s seek out start and finish points with either a bus service or car park.

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UCLan – how things change

In February UCLan unveiled ambitious plans to better integrate the university into Preston City Centre getting rid of the roundabout at Adelphi.  The plans have wide local political support and will start with the new Engineering Block next year.

Having been a part-time engineering student at the Harris College in the 1960’s and early 70’s it’s hard to comprehend the growth in full time student numbers.  The Harris used to offer City & Guilds, HNC and HND and the students I recall were mainly from the British Aircraft Corporation, British Gas, Norweb and Dorman Smith.  HNC students did one day and one night a week, HND students full time study with work placements.

Graphic Artists were in the building off Corporation Street and Fine Artists in the Avenham Institute Building.  At some stage we were based in Trinity School which seemed a bit like a prison camp.  In the 70’s you could still park your car in most places in the town centre and getting a spot in the college car park was possible if you arrived early enough.

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House Price Ascent

House prices in Preston fell in 2014 according to the Halifax.  Recent forecasts though are saying that the North West is likely to increase in 2015 as the London property market treads ground and prospects for improved transport infrastructure in the north start to look better.

It is said that High Speed Rail to the Channel Tunnel has had a big effect increasing house prices in areas where stations are located.  The recent talk of High Speed Rail in the north, HS2 and HS3,  is having an effect although they will take some time to be built.  The electrification of lines in the North West between Manchester, Preston, Blackpool, Wigan,  Liverpool creates a more integrated system and improves potential for services.

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House Price Decline

Unfortunate to see Preston named in the bottom 10 of a national list.  Today’s Times says Preston has the 8th largest decrease in house prices in 2014 with a reduction of 2% to an average of £151,071, according to the Halifax.

The Lancashire towns seem to feature in the list with Bury having the biggest decline, although the north west as a whole didn’t come out badly.

It’s never easy to know how realistic these indices are.  There are several and they’re often based on what that particular organisation did.  Even if it was based on the total number of houses sold in a year, such as the Land Registry data,  it could be effected if most sales happened to be in a certain sector perhaps because of a special grant at that value.

Now if Preston was top it would of course be a true reflection.

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Preston’s new University Engineering Centre

University of Central Lancashire, UCLan, recently announced a new Engineering Innovation Centre to be opened in 2018.   The new building will be located near the Adelphi close to the heart of the UCLan Campus. It will contain equipment to enable technology demonstration and specialist work with an objective of producing engineers trained with a broad scope of relevant technical and personal skills and the ability to use teamwork and project management. The centre will also liaise with local schools to promote engineering and provide the skills that will be needed in the future.

UCLan already provides courses in aerospace and motor sport, robotics, electrical and mechanical engineering.  This new centre will enable specialist and project based work and support local industry also new courses in oil and gas safety and aerospace engineering.

This sounds an interesting scheme, we frequently hear that companies like Rolls Royce Aero Engines have to recruit qualified engineers from Germany.  There is a skills gap in the UK caused largely by the decline in engineering base since 1950, and its lack of modern image.   Yet working on unmanned aircraft and cars, creating apps and devices we don’t yet know about is surely an exciting prospect for anyone with a willingness to seek the future.  It’s vital to the UK to keep abreast with technology if we’re to create jobs needing specialist skills with good salaries, and pay our way in the world.

UCLan Engineering Innovation Centre planned for 2018

UCLan Engineering Innovation Centre planned for 2018

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Preston City Region

Preston is home to Lancashire County Council and perhaps that is why Preston has never rocked the boat and become a Unitary Council such as Blackburn & Darwen and Blackpool.  Talk of devolution to the north of England opens the doors to many options and perhaps is one reason why it’s unlikely to happen.

Lancashire already has the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and a City Deal to focus investment covering Preston and it’s surrounding area.   Recently Manchester has been given bigger powers and control of budgets in return for having an elected Mayor.  Could this be done for Preston and in effect would this be more like splitting Lancashire into west, east and perhaps north.  With Preston being the centre of the western part.

The metropolitan boroughs such as Wigan and Bolton are effectively single tier government.  With Wigan having 75 councillors by combining what was formerly 14 separate councils.   Greater Manchester is managed by a Combined Authority of a representative councillor from each borough.

Whether dividing Lancashire into Preston, Lancaster and Burnley regions would provide advantage isn’t clear.  It would reduce elections if Lancashire was run like Greater Manchester.  There are personal attachments to the name Lancashire so sentiment might play a part as much as logic.

The rural areas of such a region would be Conservative while Preston itself would be Labour.  Who would hold the balance? This creates another difficulty as the strongly Conservative rural areas would not want to effectively give up their autonomy if it could be outvoted in a bigger council and vice versa.  Wigan and its merged constituents is almost entirely Labour so there is no political obstacle.

It could also be said that local accountability is better based upon Lancashire and the smaller local councils that we have now.

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PNE 2nd in the table

Here is the League One standing on 30th October with Preston North End 2nd.  A game in hand on the team above.

Last time something like this was posted was November 2006 with PNE 1st.  They nearly went down that season.

PNE 2nd in League 1 30th October 2014

PNE 2nd in League 1 30th October 2014

 

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Preston Bus Station £1 buy out and £20m investment

Lancashire County Council bought Grade II listed Preston Bus Station for £1 and this week have announced plans for its redevelopment.  These include:

  • Reducing the number of bus bays from 80 to 40.
  • Using only the east side for buses.
  • Making the car parking spaces bigger.
  • Using the west side for a Youth Zone including outdoor pitches and areas for music, art and craft.

The total cost could be £23m including:

  • Repairs are expected to cost £6.4m and conversion to a smaller station £7.4m.
  • The Youth Zone, £6m.
  • Improvements to the apron £2m and highway improvement £1.5m including improvements to linking the bus and railway stations.

These are interesting plans although pushing the bus station behind a sports complex makes it remote and quite a trail from the life of the centre. Although being next to the bus station should also be a bonus for the youth complex.   The plans for the Guild Hall should also make use of the bus station and it might be hoped that the Guild Hall Arcade will be modified to provide a comfortable space for moving between the bus station and the Town Centre.  Also the underground passageways to the bus station are no longer necessary.

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Preston Guild Hall £1 Buy Out

The Guild Hall has been bought by local businessman Simon Rigby and a large trust fund set up to support arts and culture in Preston.  There are plans to invest over £1m in the Guild Hall to improve the entrance and its facilities including a new restaurant, with the objective of making it one of  Lancashire’s main entertainment complexes.  It will become part of the Villa Group which is primarily known for The Villa in Wrea Green.

Preston Council previously ran the Guild Hall and was providing a £1m a year subsidy forcing them to consider closing the venue in 2015, 42 years after it was opened in 1973.  The Guild Hall stands next to the Bus Station which is also subject of a £1 buy out and plans to spend £20m are being revealed by Lancashire County Council.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Simon Rigby bought out an electricity metering business in 1996 for £1.  The company, Spice plc, bought out several other companies and was itself bought out by Private Equity investors in 2010 for £251m, of which Simon had a share.

Well done to Simon and good luck with the Guild Hall.

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Management Redundancies at BAE and Lancashire County Council

In the last few weeks BAE SYSTEMS announced between 150 and 450 management job losses at their Warton plant.  Lancashire County Council announced 150 management job losses.

BAE said they hope to re-deploy some people to other parts of the business and both organisations will be looking for volunteers.

Both organisations have reduced headcount in the last few years.  It’s often difficult to establish how many people have left an organisation as out-sourcing may reduce the numbers directly employed.  Sometimes the jobs remain but the staff change employer .  Also many organisations have natural wastage and people under threat are allowed to take other roles.

It can be a traumatic time,  although a redundancy package at the right stage of life can be a very good thing for some.  Some job shuffling to allow this to happen is the decent way to go about it.

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The United Kingdom and Northern Parliament

The UK / Great Britain are famous brands respected all over the world for democracy, legal system, science, culture, innovation and more.   It seems amazing that people suggest they are willing to give it up and split the country into smaller parts.

The Lancashire Evening Post today contains an article about a debate in the Continental Hotel in Preston on the effect of Scottish independence on the north and if the north should have it’s own parliament.

It’s hard to see what benefits either of these things can have.   Influence is largely based on size.  It’s no surprise that Germany is powerful in the EU, as well as their industriousness they’re by far the biggest country in terms of population.  Splitting the UK can only damage it’s influence and prestige.  To some influence and prestige may mean little but if you’re looking to get a contract and can offer a big reciprocal market it can swing the deal. Similar with world status in the G7, IMF and UN, a voice there can win friends where you are looking for benefits and deals.

A northern parliament will benefit the local politicians who will have more power.  It would add another layer of government and potential for arguments with central government. Perhaps it would be more left leaning and some would think that good if it gives some freedom from a right leaning central government.  Although it might not have enough powers to make significant changes in those areas.  It could be that if taxes in the north were higher than the Midlands then moving a few miles into a lower taxed area would be something you wouldn’t worry about and it could accelerate the movement of jobs south.  Or maybe if benefits were better in the north the unemployed would move north.  Whereas a Scot might think twice about moving into England.

With independence Scotland will be free they say!  The freedom will be to have limited scope  for change at home, not even having their own currency, and to be of no consequence whatsoever on the world stage.   In many ways Scottish independence could benefit the north as many jobs in shipbuilding, government and defence are based there and they’d possibly be moved to the north of England. Those northern windmills could be more affordable rather than subsidising Scottish windmills.  Although overall it would damage the UK in terms of size and influence.  There’s no doubt to me all sides are better together.

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