Lancashire County Council leader reacts to Boris Johnson's resignation

The Conservative leader of Lancashire County Council says that the authority stands ready to work with the new government teams being assembled in Whitehall - but declined to comment on the collapse of Boris Johnson’s administration.

Thursday, 7th July 2022, 4:55 pm
Updated Friday, 8th July 2022, 11:33 am

Phillippa Williamson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that County Hall would not be “expressing a view” on one of the most extraordinary 48-hour periods in British political history, which finally culminated in the Prime Minister resigning as leader of the Conservative Party on Thursday morning.

The county council has been in ongoing discussions with the government about the prospect of striking a devolution deal for Lancashire.

However, like many Whitehall departments, the one with responsibility for local authorities has been engulfed in the chaos of Tory attempts to drive Mr. Johnson out of Downing Street.

The Conservative leader of Lancashire County Council, Phillippa Williamson, declined to be drawn into commenting on the chaos at Westminster this week

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The minister with specific responsibility for securing bespoke ”county deals” with places like Lancashire was amongst dozens on the government payroll to resign in recent days.

Neil O’Brien was one of two ministers to vacate their posts in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), along with three parliamentary private secretaries.

The DLUHC also lost its Secretary of State, Michael Gove, on Wednesday evening after he became the only member of the cabinet to be sacked by the embattled PM, in contrast to five others who have this week quit.

Mr. Gove - who was appointed to the role only last year - oversaw the publication, in February, of a key policy paper which will shape the direction of devolution discussions with county councils and other local authorities nationwide.

He has been replaced by Greg Clark MP, who has returned to lead a department he was previously in charge of - in one of its past guises - during 2015/16.

Responding to events within the national Tory party, County Cllr Williamson said: "This Conservative administration is relentlessly focused on delivering our priorities and ensuring better outcomes for the people of Lancashire.

"We will continue to work hard and will be ready for conversations with central government as and when the new teams are in place - [which] we are happy to see is happening at pace.

"Colleagues will naturally have their own personal views which they may well express at an appropriate time. However, this administration will not be expressing a view or commenting further on events in Westminster.”

Lancashire’s 15 local authorities agreed the principles on which they would seek to secure a devolution deal with the government back in January.

In a comment to a cabinet meeting at County Hall in April - County Cllr Williamson said that work on devolution was “progressing really well”, following publication of the Levelling Up white paper in February.

In a tweet on Thursday afternoon, the new Levelling Up Secretary, Greg Clark, said: "We have a duty to ensure that the country has a functioning government in the weeks ahead.

“Having been Secretary of State at the Communities department before, I will do my best to provide stability, good governance and accountability to Parliament at this important time.”