October 19, 2020 4.07 pm This story is over 14 months old

Minister’s devolution rejection backs district councils’ concerns

Upper tier leaders vow to keep going

A government letter rejecting the Greater Lincolnshire devolution bid has backed the district councils’ argument that it’s not the right time for local reorganisation, leaders have said.

The letter from Housing Minister and Newark MP Robert Jenrick turning down the plans was addressed to Conservative MPs in our region. It announced devolution plans for Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset.

However, in response to other applications, Mr Jenrick said: “Given the pressures councils face this winter with the pandemic, I believe it would not be right at this time for them to further progress or focus on ideas for reform.

“The pandemic has rightly necessitated resources across Whitehall being re-allocated to tackling COVID, and this must be Whitehall’s and town halls’ number one priority at present.

“And, as outlined, there is no expectation that such restructuring is a Whitehall requirement.”

District Council leaders have welcomed the comments, which appear to back their own concerns when Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill and his counterparts at North and North East Lincolnshire initially launched their bid in July.

The leaders acknowledge reform is needed, but say that a solution that works long-term is also required.

Greater Lincolnshire council leaders Rob Waltham, Martin Hill and Philip Jackson wrote to government in May.

“We are pleased that central government has put the potential for local government reorganisation in Lincolnshire on hold for the time being,” they said in a joint statement.

“This enables district councils to put our full focus on protecting the county’s most vulnerable and keeping essential services running during the pandemic.

“We have been very consistent and clear in our message: now is not the right time for local government re-organisation due to COVID and it’s reassuring that Government has shown its support for our view.”

When the news was announced last week Councillor Hill said the authority would continue to work on the “best way forward”.

Boston Borough Council leader Councillor Paul Skinner warned the issue was “not going away”.

The leaders all agreed to continue working together, adding: “If government decides to resurrect its plans for devolution or reorganisation in Lincolnshire, our residents and businesses can be assured that we are well prepared to respond and secure the best outcomes for the residents and businesses of our districts.”

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