Lincolnshire County Council’s economy portfolio holder has suggested at least £50 million a year could be saved by getting rid of “out of date, chaotic” councils.
Leaders at LCC, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire Councils are arguing for a single unitary authority to replace the existing 10 covering the Greater Lincolnshire region.
However, district councils and opposition say it’s not the right time as the country recovers from coronavirus and risks alienating communities.
Economy Portfolio Holder at LCC, Councillor Colin Davie, however, said delivering local government reform was “absolutely critical” in the face of the pandemic.
The councillor, who also sits on East Lindsey District Council, is a major proponent of having one authority, but using “local area committees” working with parish councils and local people to give lower level communities a voice.
He said work already done estimated a saving “probably around £50 million a year” by getting rid of the extra levels of bureaucracy.
“Being able to then invest some of that money into delivering some of the changes we need is a huge opportunity,” he said.
“It’s a once in a generational opportunity for change that makes a difference for Lincolnshire.”
“We need more powers from London to be dealt with locally, we need the ability to shape our place, free from restrictions imposed centrally on us,” he said.
Councillor Davie said the systems for local government were now “chaotic, out of date and no longer relevant for the age we now live in”.
“If you ask any resident who their local county or district councillor is, I would be surprised if you could find one in 10 people to tell you,” he said.
“If you ask those paying people what services each council delivered they couldn’t tell you – they just know the council does stuff.
“So the idea we should have 10 councils across Greater Lincolnshire is a nonsense.”
He added that one single authority would also bring services into line with one another, rather than one council using one method and another taking a different approach.
He accused those against the plans of “arguing to keep their own jobs”.
Councillor Davie hoped that the reform would also engage more residents with their local government with just under a quarter of people voting in local elections “on a good day”.
“That means one in four people decide the council and what goes on there and who represents them.
“That means 75% of people are so disinterested in local government, they don’t want to participate in it. That’s a terrible indictment, really because the place we live in is important.
“The service we get locally is important and if people don’t want to engage we are missing a trick – something has gone wrong.”