Greater Lincolnshire Authorities: ‘Appetite for devolution’ says council leader

Debate in the chamber at Lincolnshire County Council. Photo supplied.
Debate in the chamber at Lincolnshire County Council. Photo supplied.

The leader of Lincolnshire County Council said there is still scope for devolution in the county but without a directly elected mayor.

It comes as the council leader, Councillor Martin Hill, revealed that informal discussions had taken place between the leaders of the 10 councils in Greater Lincolnshire and the government over plans to revisit the devolution deal.

The county council and South Kesteven District Council previously rejected a devolution offer back in 2016 over fears of further bureaucracy with a directly elected mayor.

But Councillor Hill said that a new framework could be put in place by the government to allow for a devolved region without an elected mayor.

“The government has indicated that it is now ready to think about offering devolution to areas that currently haven’t got it,” he said.

“The previous rules were, to get devolution, you had to have a directly elected mayor.

“Under the new consultation, the government is now saying an elected mayor is no longer compulsory, so you could still have devolution without having all the bureaucracy of having a mayor.

“So we are looking at possibilities of what that means and what we could do to get some devolution.”

He added that he thinks there is still an appetite for devolution ahead of further discussions with neighbouring council leaders.

Following the publication of a framework, it is likely that the councils would have to rebid for a devolution plan and consult on the matter.

Leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, Ray Oxby, said previously that it was too early to say if residents would support any future offer.

He said: “As people will be aware, while we were supportive of the original proposal in 2016, a deal that ultimately the county council itself rejected, the world has since moved on and so it’s way too early to say if our members and residents would support any future Greater Lincolnshire devolution offer.

“At the moment, there’s nothing on the table to really consider.

“However, since the original discussion, we’ve been keen to build on our reputation and excellent relationship with Whitehall and have pressed ahead with our Town Deal, which was the only initiative of its kind included in the government’s Industrial Strategy announcement last year.

“As such, our focus is mainly on ensuring that’s taken forward and delivers on the vision and ambition we have for North East Lincolnshire. ‘’

In 2016, the Greater Lincolnshire devolution deal was rejected over fears that an elected mayor would have created more bureaucracy.

The deal on offer would have created a new combined authority, with a directly elected mayor.

The new authority would also have received £15 million a year for the next 30 years for infrastructure projects.

Current combined authorities include Greater Manchester, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, West Midlands and the Sheffield City Region.

Discussions have also been ongoing about working closely with East Midlands authorities.

The plans would see the authorities look to share services and seek more devolved powers.

A closer relationship between the county councils has been dubbed a ‘strategic alliance’ and could see them submit funding bids to government for major transport improvements on roads such as the A46, which cuts through the Midlands.

But, Councillor Hill said that if cities are involved then devolution in plans would involve a directly elected mayor.

He said: “I don’t think personally there is much point in going back down the road of an elected mayor.

“It was made quite clear to us that was a price that was not worth paying.”

Calvin Robinson , Local Democracy Reporting Service