Top level talks set to take place over ‘ Mega’ council

High-level talks are set to take place about forming a new ‘mega council’ to take control of Lincolnshire.

Plans for a unitary authority appeared to be in total chaos a couple of weeks ago after the district council’s refusal to co-operate with a referendum.

The referendum was proposed by Lincolnshire County Council in a bid to secure public support for a unitary authority.

It would have been held alongside the county council elections in May.

The elections are administered by district councils, but they backed out of the referendum after taking legal advice - stating they believed the process was illegal.

That led to strong words between leading figures at county and district level.

Now, the leader of East Lindsey District Council - Coun Craig Leyland - has said they are prepared to ‘actively engage’ in discussions about the future of local government.

Coun Leyland said: “I am pleased that the County Council is no longer pursuing the idea of a referendum and is instead looking to work with councils to undertake consultation with communities on options for future local government arrangements for Lincolnshire.

“Given the financial climate that Lincolnshire’s councils are operating in, it is right and proper that we consider whether alternative arrangements could better serve those living in East Lindsey and the wider county.

“It is important that when communities are consulted they have full knowledge of the facts and options.

“I have given a commitment on behalf of ELDC that we will actively engage in the discussions around future local government arrangements, and to make sure that the consultation is meaningful and that, whatever the result, we do the utmost to secure a positive outcome for the people of the area.”

Coun Leyland’s views have been echoed by other district council leaders, including West Lindsey’s Jeff Summers.

Coun Summers indicated a poll could be held in the autumn and said: “If such a poll takes place, then a coherent transfer of information to the electorate must take place.

“For the time being, my council (West Lindsey) will be pursuing further opportunities of sharing systems, services and costs with our neighbouring partners, strengthening our relationships and continuing to develop structures which we feel will deliver the inward investment the county so urgently needs.”

County council leader Martin Hill is a firm advocate of a unitary authority, saying it will save millions of pounds and even lead to a reduction in council tax bills.

Two weeks ago, the County Council released a statement saying it was committed to the process of looking into the possibility of a single authority,

The council says it is open to all ideas to gauge public opinion about the idea, including a postal ballot.

However, despite the apparent thaw in relations, sources suggest districts are still wary about what some councils fear will amount to a county takeover.