Conservative-run West Lindsey District Council agrees to devolution deal by a narrow margin

West Lindsey District Council has voted in favour of devolution by a small majority.

Jeff Summers
Jeff Summers

During a full council debate councillors from all sides of the chamber raised concerns about the proposal that would see new powers and funding passed from central government to the Greater Lincolnshire area - including a new, directly-elected mayor.

A total of 17 councillors voted in favour of the devolution proposal, with 12 against and two abstentions.

Market Rasen ward councillor Thomas Smith - one of four Conservatives to vote against the proposal - told the meeting: “We’ve been told this is a great chance to take control of our future.

“I have, however, come to a rather different view.

“It’s clear from the beginning that far from being about gaining control, we are in fact losing it.”

He added: “The cost for a mayor that no-body wants, that we don’t need, is £2.194m.

“I for one cannot and will not vote for something that I believe will harm this district more than help it, and harm the ward and constituency I have been given the privilege to represent.”

But Caistor ward member, Conservative Coun Owen Bierley, spoke in favour of the devolution proposal.

He said: “I support this paper, this is a momentous decision for this council.

“New legislation is being introduced, which quite frankly is not ideally suited to rural areas, such as ours, and this is the challenge.

“If we take over those powers from the government, as locally elected people, my view is that we can get a better return locally, than what the government can.”

And fellow Conservative, Coun Lewis Strange, who represents the Kelsey Wold ward, was also in favour.

He said: “It really is essential that we get in now… grab the opportunity, move forward.”

Coun Strange said rural funding from central government has been falling all the time.

He said: “We’ve been cut, cut, cut.”

Ahead of the vote, WLDC’s Conservative leader Coun Jeff Summers told members the area ‘needs progress’.

Coun Summers said: “We do need to see some progress in Lincolnshire.

“It’s been far too long when significant investment in the United Kingdom has gone into the South East and London and city areas.

“It’s about time rural areas had their share.”

Conservatives Coun Paul Howitt-Cowan (Hemswell), Coun Jessie Milne (Lea), Coun Malcolm Parish (Dunholme and Welton) and Coun Thomas Smith (Market Rasen) voted against the proposal.

And Conservatives Coun Stuart Kinch (Torksey) and Coun Maureen Palmer (Cherry Willingham) abstained from the vote.

Last month WLDC Caistor ward member Coun Angela Lawrence revealed just nine per cent of people in the district had taken part in a consultation on devolution.

And Coun Lawrence, a former WLDC chairman, said that of those who did take part in the consultation there was a ‘consistent’ anti-mayor response.

The devolution deal will see 10 local authorities, from the Humber to the Wash, continue to exist in their current form but also come together to form a ‘combined authority’ to exercise the new powers.

Each council has to formally agree the deal at its full council meeting, following consultation with residents throughout the summer.

West Lindsey District Council formally agreed the deal during its full council meeting in Guildhall, Gainsborough on Monday, October 10.

What is the devolution deal?

The responsibilities of the new authority will include transport, housing, skills training and flood risk management.

Further commitments are agreed on health and social care, court and prison services.

It could boost the area’s economy by £8bn, create 29,000 jobs and provide 100,000 new homes.

The combined authority will receive £15m 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.