Boston

Matt Warman: Lincolnshire is no forgotten county, and even our small villages are well remembered

Every rural county claims to be ‘forgotten’, and within that each town claims its larger neighbour gets a greater, disproportionate share of government funding – Bostonians regularly tell me Lincoln gets too much of the financial cake; Skegnessians sometimes says Boston gets an unfair slice, and a constituent from Algarkirk recently told me they thought they had to make do with tiny crumbs. Many, of course, wonder why so much money is being spent on HS2 or foreign aid.

And up to a point, every one of those people is right: Lincoln has more bypasses than I care to count, while Boston has been waiting for decades for its.

Boston has just won a grant from the Controlling Migration Fund to spend £1.4 million additionally on integrating migrant communities, tackling rogue landlords and anti-social behaviour as well as seeking to bridge the language barrier.

Skegness has spent a significant, but smaller, sum on new bus lanes. Each can claim the larger neighbour gets more money.

Boston’s Controlling Migration Fund award, nonetheless, was the largest in the country. It represents recognition that Boston has faced unique pressures, but is also based on the fact that having large numbers of new people in the area has helped keep local shops open where in other equivalent towns they have closed.

So that tackling of rogue landlords and houses of multiple occupation will now come from additional, central funding; the money for Skegness bus lanes represents the huge advantage it would be to the town as a whole if more people took public transport.

In the years since I’ve been elected I have, in that sense, made it a personal mission both to be able to say that Lincolnshire is not forgotten – witness repeated questions, too, on Boston’s bypass – but I’ve also sought to do two other things: that’s first to explain why other areas attract more money, and second to make the case centrally for distributing that money more fairly.

Many areas get grants because they ask and, historically, many community groups in Lincolnshire haven’t gone to the lottery to ask, for instance. Today they increasingly are, and I’ve found myself opening more refurbished school playgrounds as a result.

But it’s also often the case that government asks how best to distribute its money and says that it should go where it will have the greatest economic impact.

That means giving it to existing centres of population, so Lincoln can make the numbers stack up more than Boston or Skegness can.

That, ultimately, can be short-sighted: the greatest potential difference might come from lifting people from below a lower line.

And so it is to that person in Algarkirk: their church, today, is at the heart of a vital heritage project, attracting more than a million pounds in Heritage Lottery Fund money.

It proves that if you make the right case, government support can go where it is right for it to go, rather than simply to our biggest cities.

And it proves not only that Lincolnshire’s no forgotten county, but that even our smallest villages are well remembered too.