In his budget statement today (Wednesday) Chancellor George Osborne announced important new powers and funding are to be passed from the Government to the Greater Lincolnshire area.
A devolution deal document has been agreed with Whitehall by all 10 local authorities from the Humber to The Wash.
Although all the councils will continue to exist in their current form, they will also come together to form a ‘combined authority’ to exercise the new powers.
Like other areas with devolved powers, such as Sheffield and Manchester, the combined authority will also have its own directly-elected mayor.
The funding and responsibilities will include transport, housing, skills training and flood-risk management. Further commitments are also agreed on health and social care, as well as court and prison services. The aim is to ensure local accountability, making the new body answerable to the one million people in Greater Lincolnshire.
The 10 local authorities involved are Lincolnshire County Council, North Lincolnshire Council, North-East Lincolnshire Council, City of Lincoln Council, Boston Borough Council and South Kesteven, West Lindsey, South Holland, East Lindsey, North Kesteven District Councils.
Each council will have to formally agree the deal at their full council, following consultation with residents in the summer.
The devolution arrangements could boost the area’s economy by £8 billion, create 29,000 jobs and provide 100,000 new homes. The combined authority will receive £15 million a year, for the next 30 years, for infrastructure projects to boost economic growth and will have responsibility for a devolved and consolidated, multi-year local transport budget for the entire combined authority area.
The funding will only be for new responsibilities and will not affect the current budget proposals recently agreed by each council.
The Greater Lincolnshire bid also has the support of other public bodies such as the Local Enterprise Partnership and the police.
Coun Peter Bedford, Leader of Boston Borough Council, said: “This is a very important first step towards devolution, but there is still a lot of detail to be worked out. However, it is good news in that important decisions and spending which affect local people and communities will be made locally and not miles away in Westminster. All of the themes in the deal give us huge opportunities but perhaps none more so than housing and transport.”
The leader of East Lindsey District Council Coun Craig Leyland said: “The Devolution Deal offered by the Government is very positive for East Lindsey and Greater Lincolnshire. East Lindsey faces huge challenges particularly in terms of skills development, employment, water management and economic growth and these are key features in the deal. Individual councils across Lincolnshire will be able to vote on the proposal in the coming months. If supported, the deal unlocks the ability to make more decisions locally and thereby prioritise more government funding to meet local need.”
In December 2015, the full council at North Kesteven District Council strongly supported the Greater Lincolnshire vision for devolution and Deputy Leader, Coun Mike Gallagher welcomes the Greater Lincolnshire Devolution Deal.
He said: “The devolution deal announced today provides a great opportunity for North Kesteven. Decisions related to the local economy, housing and local public services will be taken closer to people and communities: we believe that local communities have a clearer vision and understanding of local circumstances, need and priorities.
“With extra funding, and new decision making powers, this devolution deal will enable us to move more swiftly on initiatives for growth, investment, economic development, skills development and infrastructure improvements to the benefit of our residents.”
He continued: “We have a track record of delivery and value for money in North Kesteven, of getting things done, responding to residents and acting with financial responsibility for the good of the District. We look forward to making positive contributions as a partner in the growth of Greater Lincolnshire.”
Gary Porter, leader of South Holland District Council, added: “I’m delighted with today’s announcement. This deal is fantastic for the people and businesses of South Holland.
“The hard work starts here but crucially, the decisions on how central government budget will be used to drive growth and prosperity will, in future, be decided locally”.