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Lincolnshire councillors warn that county is at 'increasing risk' of losing out on devolution

Lincolnshire is at “increasing risk” of losing out over devolution, councillors have warned as they moved forward with draft proposals which include an elected mayor for the county.

At a meeting on Friday, Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill pointed to two deals announced by the government last week for Norfolk and Suffolk which he said would deliver extra powers and about £20 million extra a year in funding.

The Greater Lincolnshire bid is being led by the county alongside North and North East Lincolnshire unitary authorities.

Coun Martin Hill says the county is at risk of losing out
Coun Martin Hill says the county is at risk of losing out

The draft bid was now close to being acceptable to the three upper tier authorities and most districts, said Coun Hill.

He added that there was hope the government will call for more devolution bids in mid 2023, and said Lincolnshire “must be seen as ready, willing and able”.

“There is an increasing risk that this council area will start to lose out,” he said.

“There are still difficult conversations to be had around governance, but I’m hopeful we will get there in the end.”

Coun Tom Ashton said the authority “can’t afford to ignore” the opportunities.

South Kesteven District Council leader Coun Kelham Cooke told members: “If we want more power and budget in Lincolnshire, this is how we’re going to get it.

“Ultimately, this is actually one of the most important decisions that we will take on the future of our county. It comes back and it will set the direction for greater Lincolnshire as a place for many years to come.”

However, despite several saying they were in favour of some form of devolution, many opposition members voted against the latest draft.

Coun Phil Dilks strongly opposed the plans to put a “large, diverse area” under a single elected mayor.

“Does anyone really believe that to improve education and transport links, we have to create yet another tier of local government?” he said.

Coun Rob Parker accused the government of bribing local authorities by offering more cash.

Meanwhile, Coun Sarah Parkin said the devil was in the detail, and said it felt like communities were being “steamrolled” by the decision.

She outlined an email from East Lindsey District Council leader Craig Leyland sent prior to the meeting which criticised the deal for only giving upper tier authorities voting rights in the planned Mayoral Combined Authority.

Coun Leyland said district councils “will not sign off or agree” to the bid until a fairer governance was agreed.

“If we do not hold our ground on this matter we will be doing our residents a disservice,” he wrote.

“Voting rights on the MCA needs to be proportional to the population of the respective participants.

“In 2016 bid we all had a seat at the table and we were on the cusp of securing significant benefits from the deal with government. As you all know that did not progress and we are now pursuing a deal with significantly less benefits.”

Despite the concerns, a vote passed 44 to 9 to push on with a devolution deal with two members abstaining.

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