'This is about Lincolnshire's future': County councillors endorse devolution deal during consultation
During a consultation session at Louth’s Meridian Leisure Centre on Wednesday (January 17), county councillors and officers engaged with residents about how the devolution deal could affect them and their communities.
LCC, along with North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire Council, have all approved the deal, which promises to deliver £24 million annually to the region for 30 years via a Mayoral Investment Fund.
Other key aspects of the proposal include the election of a mayor in 2025, a one-off capital investment of £28.4 million, and the devolution of the adult education budget control from 2026.
In the canteen area of the leisure centre, local cycling club members John Rickett and Tim Newbery shared their views on the deal.
“It means we have to have a mayor and it means we have to have another layer of government,” said John.
Meanwhile, Tim noted that while the idea was initially proposed in 2016 but didn’t materialise, he recognised the potential for added investment it could bring to the region.
When asked about what they would like to see the extra investment spent on, John advocated for improved road conditions and better local public transport: “I don’t want it to go on more car parks, I don’t want it to go on subsidised car parking, because that is the opposite of getting people out of their cars.”
Mr Rickett later added: “I don’t like the way it’s being presented. They’re saying, if we want this money, we have to have a mayor.
"Why are they tying the two together? Why can’t we just have the money? I just don’t see why it has to be tied to another layer of government.”
Mr Newbery expressed general support for the deal, while also questioning the real advantages of becoming a devolved county.
Inside the session, Councillor Colin Davie (Conservative), Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, Environment and Planning, explained: “This is one of a series of rolling consultation events around the devolution proposal for Greater Lincolnshire.
“Ultimately, the public are really fed up with the way London interferes sometimes in local matters and we don’t get the right outcome.”
He added: “Yes, we will have a mayor, but that mayor will be a figurehead for Greater Lincolnshire and be a point of contact for government, and with that will come more money.
“For me, it’s a win-win, I know some people have some reservations about a mayor being another layer of government, but that is what it requires.
“We are either going to have a seat at the top table, or we’re just going to be given what government wants to give us — and sometimes that is not in our interest.”
Over the past few weeks, council leaders from both Boston and South Kesteven have publicly criticised the deal in meetings, labelling the £24 million per year as merely a “drop in the ocean.” However, Coun Davie maintains that this amount is “just a starting point.”
“Anyone who has looked at the devolution journey for other places, such as Manchester and the North East, knows that you start with a deal and then you use that deal to leverage further deals,” he continued.
“For me, it’s the beginning of a journey and places have to move forward. We need to invest wisely in things that are going to change the dynamic and direction of Greater Lincolnshire, so people nationally and internationally see Lincolnshire as a place to live and invest in.”
The public consultation process for the deal formally began after North Lincolnshire Council’s approval on December 4. Since then, all three upper-tier councils have been urging residents to express their views, either through the online form or at any of the 21 tour stops across the county.
Councillor Davie noted that around 3,000 people have responded to the consultation so far, a number he believes surpasses the response other areas have received in the past. Although council officers couldn’t provide an exact count, they said they were pleased with the level of response.
The representative for Ingoldmells Rural ward added: “I think, generally, the feedback is positive. I think people do believe that we should have more power locally to make decisions.
“We need to be prepared to grasp this nettle, take what’s on offer and use it to negotiate bigger and better deals in the future.”
He also encouraged public participation in the consultation events, stating: “I don’t want people to just trust us, I want people to engage with us and make their views known so we can really listen to them.”
District councillors from various parts of Lincolnshire have also raised concerns about the absence of a referendum, costed at £1.3m, which would allow residents to vote on whether the deal goes ahead. However, Coun Davie argues that it would be a “waste of money” and a “waste of time.”
He said: “If people want to make their views known, they can go online and do it now. We are not going to be secretive about that.
“Why would we want to spend a shed load of public money on a referendum that we’d be lucky if ten percent of the population voted on?”
Coun Patricia Bradwell, Deputy Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Community Safety, Procurement, and Mitigation, insisted that the consultation tour has seen a good turnout.
“I think the main issue is that some people don’t completely understand,” she stated. She acknowledged that certain district councils in the county are “wary about going down this route,” but asserted: “Some people don’t like the idea of change.”
When asked about key contenders for the Lincolnshire mayoral role, she immediately ruled herself out as she encouraged people to attend the remaining consultation events in Grantham, Barton-upon-Humber, Grimsby, Skegness, Spalding, Market Rasen, and Lincoln.
Councillor Richard Butroid (Conservative) concurred with his colleagues, adding: “This is about Lincolnshire’s future.
“This is something that we’ve taken a long time to get right and get the best deal possible for Lincolnshire. We wouldn’t be doing this if this wasn’t the best thing for Lincolnshire.”