CABINET CALL: Devolution - the biggest missed chance of the last 15 years

Coun Gary Porter, Leader of South Holland District Council. ANL-160112-145127001
Coun Gary Porter, Leader of South Holland District Council. ANL-160112-145127001
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As regular readers of Spalding Today will be aware, South Holland District Council signed up to the Greater Lincolnshire devolution bid.

Ourselves, along with seven other councils who also signed up, wanted to give our residents greater direct control over some government services and bring in hundreds of millions of pounds worth of extra government funding to our area.

Had the deal gone ahead, it would have created a combined authority (CA) covering the ceremonial county of Lincolnshire.

Membership of the authority would have been made up of the leaders of the ten councils, with one vote each, and the chairman of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership would also have sat on the authority in an advisory role. This was to mak sure that the business community had constant input into any CA-proposed action.

There would also have been one other voting position on the CA, a directly-elected Mayor, who would have acted as the chairman of the CA, making sure that decisions were to the benefit of all, not any particular, individual council.

Because they would have been elected by all of the voters in Lincolnshire, there would have been a direct line between them, the voter and central government, thus making them accountable in three ways if, heaven forbid, anything went wrong.

We signed up to the Greater Lincolnshire devolution bid as wanted to give our residents greater direct control over some government services and bring in hundreds of millions of pounds worth of extra government funding to our area.

Coun Gary Porter, Leader of South Holland District Council

As well as this role, there would have been an expectation for the mayor to have promoted all of our interests to the wider world.

The CA would have cost approximately £600,000 a year to run, including the Mayor’s office, and if the Government had delivered what it had promised, it would have brought in over £70 million pounds of direct extra funding next year.

This would have been followed by at least £55 million for the following four years and at least £15 million a year for 25 years after that.

I say “at least” because the authority would have been able to enter into separate deals, with the numbers quoted above being the value of the first two deals.

At the top of this piece I said we, along with seven others had signed up.

The last two councils to have decided were South Kesteven District Council and Lincolnshire County Council.

Unfortunately both of them recently confirmed to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. the Right Honourable Sajid Javid MP, that they would not be signing up to the deal.

Last week, I received an email from Sajid Javid confirming that, in accordance with the legislation, because we hadn’t all agreed to the deal then it was being withdrawn.

I think this is probably the biggest missed opportunity for Lincolnshire that I have seen in any of my 15 years as a councillor and it gives me little comfort to know that South Holland members (from the two main groups on the council) voted to take the opportunity offered to us.