County councillors have voted to endorse the next stages in the Greater Lincolnshire Devolution deal, despite an almost unanimous admission that a directly elected mayor was unwelcome.
As previously reported, key points of the proposal include:
- The combined authority will receive £15 million a year, for the next 30 years, for infrastructure projects
- Funding and responsibilities will include transport, housing, skills training and flood risk management
- A directly elected mayor will lead the combined authority, with elections potentially taking place in 2017
- All the councils will continue to exist in their current form
Council leader Martin Hill brought forward the motion to put the devolution deal out to public consultation, stating: “The more we can claw back from government to decide locally, the better.
We came to a pragmatic decision to accept the directly elected mayor. The door would have been closed by the government otherwise.
The motion was supported by a range of councillors who spoke at the meeting, including Conservative Jackie Brockway and Liberal Democrat John Marriott who described it as a “foot in the door” for greater powers in the future.
In supporting the principle, Councillor Nick Worth said that “Lincolnshire won’t ever have a greater opportunity” to gain powers from Westminster.
An Independence from Europe’s Chris Pain also gave his full backing to the devolution deal, arguing that it was better to have powers locally instead of being dictated to by some “pompous civil servants down in London”.
While the motion was carried by the council, there were many dissenting voices.
Leading those was Labour’s Phil Dilks, who was unconvinced by the proposals.
He said: “It’s a bit like saying ‘sign here and we’ll let you know what you’ve signed later’.
The people of Lincolnshire do not want a directly elected mayor.
Helen Powell, from the Lincolnshire Independents, said that she was “frightened” that the democracy that people had died for would be eroded by the devolution deal and mayor.
Labour councillor Sarah Dodds questioned whether Lincolnshire was actually gaining any extra powers, fearing that it was actually an attempt to centralise powers by central government.
UKIP’s Anne Reynolds added: “I don’t want this version of devolution where we have a mayor forced on us.”
Lincolnshire residents will now be consulted on the proposals over the summer.