Lincolnshire’s hopes for devolution have fallen at the first hurdle, but council leaders say they will continue to push forward.
The leaders of Lincolnshire County Council, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire councils wrote to government ministers in May, calling for devolution talks to begin, and were reportedly at the front of the queue with Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Somerset and Surrey.
However, council leaders on Thursday confirmed government ministers had written to tell them they didn’t make the cut.
Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill has previously said there was “no loss of appetite” for devolution.
On Thursday, he said: “I have received a letter from government regarding our devolution bid. While we have not been selected to progress at this stage, we are encouraged to continue working-up proposals.
“We will continue to have further discussions with colleagues in Greater Lincolnshire on the best way forward whilst we await the delayed white paper which will be hopefully help further inform our future plans.”
North East Lincolnshire Council Leader Councillor Philip Jackson said: “Although the government has confirmed other areas will be in this first tranche, we’re pleased that the minister has written to all three upper tier leaders in Lincolnshire asking us to continue dialogue with government with a view to progressing devolution once the white paper is published. ”
The move sparked a row between upper and lower tier authorities when it was announced earlier this year.
Those in favour of the proposals said it would create an “economic powerhouse” and would help with post-COVID-19 recovery.
However, the seven district councils said the time was “not right” and that the focus should be on tackling the virus. They were also angered over a lack of consultation on the plans.
The district councils have also indicated they may want to put forward their own proposals which could potentially differ from Councillor Hill and his partners’ vision.
Boston Borough Council leader and Lincolnshire County Councillor Paul Skinner warned this wasn’t the end.
“[The decision] doesn’t mean it’s going away, it just means we weren’t as ready as three other counties that were selected,” he said.
“I don’t think this will be going away, there are reasons to consider it.”
Details have yet to be confirmed over what devolution would specifically mean for the ten upper and district councils which cover Greater Lincolnshire.
It would see several, if not all, the existing councils abolished with suggestions that a replacement system would range from one to three separate councils.
Local Government minister Simon Clark indicated previously that any devolution bid would have to include a mayor.
However, that idea was part of the reason why a previous £450million devolution deal was rejected by Lincolnshire councillors in 2016.