South Kesteven District Council’s leader has told his authority he continues to reject a “one size fits all” Greater Lincolnshire combined council, but said his authority needs to be a part of the devolution process to avoid changes being forced upon it.
Conservative Councillor Kelham Cooke was responding to a question at SKDC’s Full Council meeting on Thursday when he told members reorganisation was “on the horizon for this authority” adding “we need to be open and honest”.
Independent Councillor Phil Dilks had asked for his opinion, reminding councillors SKDC had previously rejected a deal which would have seen the council overseen by a mayor.
“The people of South Kesteven and this council recognised that none of the so-called extra government money, dangled as a carrot to persuade minds in favour of that plan, would be invested in South Kesteven but would be mostly diverted furthest away from us and poured into the Humber industrial ports which are literally as far removed from my ward and yours as London is,” said Councillor Dilks.
He said there was now a “governor” being promoted for the new combined authority instead of a mayor, and asked Councillor Cooke to “assure the people of South Kesteven… that you, your cabinet, and the administration of this council, is still opposed and will remain opposed to the notion of a unitary Greater Lincolnshire with or without a mayor or a governor”.
Councillor Cooke said it was a “matter of public record” he had voted against the previous plans.
However, he said the government’s Department of Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities was about to publish a white paper including devolution and potential deals for reorganisation.
He said leaders across the county regularly spoke about it.
“I’ve said previously I’m not in favour of a one size fits all Greater Lincolnshire combined Council, as I do believe it would be just a huge geographic area, and I don’t think that’s the way in which the government is currently thinking,” he said.
“It is very much a case though that either we have to be a part of the process or we will have it done to us.”
He said the council needed to be actively involved and engaged with the process.
“If there is an offer, it will be up to us as a council to then determine again, what the decisions should be in terms of our future, but I don’t hide the fact that I do think reorganisation is on the horizon for this authority and we need to be open and honest about that.”
Councils working on a renewed bid to the government for devolution earlier this month said they had a “compelling case” ready to go.
Talking about the government’s levelling up agenda earlier this month Lincoln MP Karl McCartney predicted that Greater Lincolnshire could become a unitary authority “very soon”, with a central mayor and a group of elected “super councillors”.