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AskRankin: Five things we learned from the second quizzing of Preston City Council leader

Posted on - 20th October, 2015 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - News, Opinion, Preston Council
Cllr Peter Rankin is interviewed by Sarah Fielden from the LEP Pic: Evening Post

Cllr Peter Rankin is interviewed by Sarah Fielden from the LEP Pic: Colin Ainscough

Leader of the Preston City Council has been taking questions via Prestonians in a second #AskRankin.

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The first last year saw the event live streamed and questions came in live from Blog Preston readers.

This year Councillor Rankin was interviewed by Sarah Fielden from the Lancashire Evening Post who came armed with a number of readers questions. You can watch the full interview here.

Here’s what we learned from watching back the interview:

1. A Lancashire Combined Authority is coming closer

Cllr Rankin and his fellow Lancashire leaders are currently working out, or more thrashing out, how a Combined Authority would work for the county.

With the Conservatives seemingly willing to devolve more powers and financial responsibility to the likes of Manchester and Merseyside, which have combined authorities, Rankin and co sense the chance to increase their shilling.

Will central government back it? It remains to be seen if they can persuade them. And then there’s the question of what powers Lancashire would actually have. And if you have a Combined Authority, where does that leave Lancashire County Council?

2. Business rate setting seems a non-starter

George Osborne announced by 2020 councils could set their own business rates, hiking them to make more cash or potentially lowering them – as many council wish to – to try and stimulate their city and town centres.

Cllr Rankin didn’t agree with the assertion there are more empty shops in the city – pointing to a survey from earlier this year by Preston Business Improvement District which said tenancy was up in the city – and appeared lukewarm to the idea of setting his own business rates. His concern was that the Chancellor’s plan appeared to include a cut in the central government grant alongside the new powers.

So if there were fewer businesses in 2020, and Rankin and co cut the rates, and lost their grant – with Preston being one of the hardest hit councils in the country – then the city’s finance officer may well be pinning him and Martyn Rawlinson, cabinet member for finance, to the inside of their offices.

3. Free parking for the city centre?

Why not open up all the car parks and make them free to shoppers? An idea that’s been mooted for a long time but only gets acted on for the run up to Christmas and for specific periods.

Cllr Rankin said they would be putting some free parking in place for the Christmas rush but he said the council only owned 30 per cent of car parks in the city – the rest being privately operated by shopping centres and NCP.

4. Moor Park could hold more events

There’s going to be a lot of work going on in the coming years to Moor Park. There’s more than £2 million being spent on it, and Cllr Rankin said the main issues was the drainage.

The 2012 Guild could have been held on it, but council chiefs got nervous after a lot of bad weather in the run up to the Guild and they went for Avenham instead.

5. Don’t frack, give people insultation instead

Cllr Rankin was asked whether the city council deciding to oppose fracking – passing a motion at a summer council meeting – was ignoring the economic benefits it could bring Preston.

He said many people had concerns about traffic on rural roads to the North West of the city.

The alternative Cllr Rankin puts forward is wanting to promote renewable energy.

He said: “I believe the money should be putting money into making people’s homes much warmer so they use less fuel. By doing that it would mean more people employed than in fracking.”

Have you watched the interview? Did you submit a question? Let us know in the comments below

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