Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire devolution plunged into doubt as county councillors vote against deal

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Lincolnshire county councillors have decisively rejected a proposed devolution settlement and directly elected mayor.

A total of 43 councillors voted against the proposals at a meeting on Thursday, October 20, with 17 voting in favour and five abstentions.

Many councillors expressed their anger at the plans for an elected mayor, a perceived failure of government to listen to their concerns, and fears of two extra layers of local government bureaucracy.

Councillor Patricia Bradwell. Photo: Stuart Wilde

Councillor Patricia Bradwell. Photo: Stuart Wilde

One of those speaking against the elected mayor was deputy county council leader, Councillor Patricia Bradwell.

She said: “I don’t believe what we’re being offered in this deal is what the people we represent want. This is the slippery road towards not having a county council and district councils.”

Labour county councillor John Hough (Louth South). Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Labour county councillor John Hough (Louth South). Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Labour opposition leader on the council, Councillor John Hough, said: “I don’t think we can do a Donald Trump and claim the consultation was fixed. I think we have to look at what the people of Lincolnshire said.

“They feel the mayor is another layer of bureaucracy on top of what we have already got. They feel it’s an unnecessary expense.”

Fellow Labour member Councillor Phil Dilks echoed this view, adding: “Nobody has spoken in favour of a mayor. We can’t ask the people what they think and then tell them we know better.”

County Councillor Richard Davies is in charge of highways and transportation at Lincolnshire County Council. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

County Councillor Richard Davies is in charge of highways and transportation at Lincolnshire County Council. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Cabinet member Councillor Richard Davies also voted against the proposals, albeit for slightly different reasons.

He said: “I don’t really care about the mayoral aspect really. I’m no great lover of government of any sort.

“The scariest words in the English language as Reagan famously said were: ‘Hello I’m from the government, I’m here to help’. The second scariest words are: ‘I think I agree with John Hough’.

“When I return back to Grantham, God’s chosen town, how can I seriously suggest that we fix two broken layers of local government in Lincolnshire by the addition of a further two? On no level does that make sense.

“We’ve been negotiating for months. Time and time again we put in black and white what we want and time and time again the bureaucrats in Westminster throw it back in our face.”

Councillor Colin Davie, Executive Councillor for Economic Development, Environment, Strategic Planning and Tourism at Lincolnshire County Council. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Councillor Colin Davie, Executive Councillor for Economic Development, Environment, Strategic Planning and Tourism at Lincolnshire County Council. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Councillor Colin Davie, portfolio holder for economic development, was another high-profile dissenting voice.

He said: “What we have on the table is a dog’s breakfast of a deal. We have a contract that has holes in it, and if I was in the private sector, I would never sign a deal like this.”

Victoria Ayling. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Victoria Ayling. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Other councillors returned to the theme of a directly elected mayor.

UKIP councillor Victoria Ayling said: “Lincolnshire does not need a mayor. They say it’s devolution – it’s not devolution.

“True devolution would be to give us powers without these ridiculous conditions such as thou shall have a mayor and all the other things they put in later.”

Councillor Stephen Palmer from the Lincolnshire Independents added: “If we ask opinions of people, we should take note of them. The key question was: ‘Do you want a mayoral combined authority’?

“The answer was no.”

Martin Hill said the Serco contract was the "best possible deal for taxpayers". Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Martin Hill. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The vote was only a recommendation for the leader of the council, Martin Hill, who ultimately makes the final decision by November 21.

He said: “I think today is quite momentous.

“It’s a bit like Boris Johnson with Brexit – I think you could equally make a strong case for going down a certain road or for not doing so.

“I will not be able to deliver devolution without a directly elected mayor.

“This is not pure devolution but the first step on the road. If you signed up to this combined mayoral authority deal, you will be given preferential treatment from government when future devolution deals come along.

“This deal would secure the future of Greater Lincolnshire.”

So far seven out of 10 local authorities voted to move the devolution deal, with the county council being the first to reject it.

Key points of the Lincolnshire devolution proposal include:

  • A new combined authority would receive £15 million a year, for the next 30 years, for infrastructure projects
  • Funding and responsibilities would include transport, housing, skills training and flood risk management
  • A directly elected mayor would lead the combined authority, with elections potentially taking place in 2017
  • All the councils would continue to exist in their current form

Check out our all-you-need-to-know guide on devolution here.