Councils working on a renewed bid to the government for devolution ahead of the release of government plans due out this month have said they have a “compelling case” ready to go.
The Levelling Up White Paper, which includes the latest plans for English devolution, is due by the end of January and has been touted as including a “bold new policy regime” for tackling regional inequality with local leaders and communities set to be “empowered”.
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”.
A previous bid for a devolution deal was rejected in 2016 after councillors at the time dismissed the idea of having an elected mayor.
The Local Democracy Service asked councils what their latest position was and received a joint statement from all the district councils.
They said the new White Paper presented “an opportunity to reset the relationship between central and local government and give councils more power to deliver effectively on behalf of the areas and communities they serve”.
“The benefits of this approach have been exemplified by the national response to the pandemic, which has been based on the local delivery of priorities within a countrywide framework. It has proven to be effective and responsive and to the benefit of all.
“The ten Councils in Lincolnshire have been working collectively in preparation for the release of the document, with a view to the early submission of a compelling case for devolved powers for the historic area we represent.”
They did not reveal details of what was in the case but said it would reflect “our shared ambition for continued progress in all of our delivery responsibilities”.
“Not to do so would, without doubt, be a huge missed opportunity to secure our future prosperity,” they added.
Cllr Martin Hill, leader of Lincolnshire County Council said; “All the councils in Lincolnshire have jointly put an expression of interest into the government on devolution.
“Governance has not been discussed as we are waiting on the White Paper, now promised later in the month.”
Mr McCartney himself had some strong opinions on the plans, telling The Lincolnite: “The county council and others at district level can argue about what the structure should be, whether turkeys vote for Christmas or not we’ll see, but I personally think the only way forward is one unitary.
“I can see one unitary with a mayor and maybe the London model of assembly members. But actually it forms three to four super councillors per constituency, that’s 40 people with a mayor as well. 40 people elected to talk about Lincolnshire, and I’m hoping we’re gonna get really good people, because that’s what you want in politics, you really need the people to actually deliver.”
“I’m saying wake up and smell the coffee Lincolnshire, we’re going to have a mayor,” he later added.