September 1, 2022 3.04 pm This story is over 21 months old

Significant East Midlands devolution deal hailed, but Lincolnshire districts in danger of losing out

Neighbours’ deal included upper tier authorities only

Lincolnshire leaders have praised a “significant” devolution deal for neighbours in the East Midlands, but they remain tight-lipped over whether district councils could be excluded from future deals for the area.

A deal between Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire was announced on Wednesday and will include a directly-elected mayor.

It was also hailed as the “first ever Mayoral Combined County Authority, a new model of devolution that includes upper tier local authorities only,” suggesting that lower tier authorities such as district councils had been left out.

A devolution deal would create a new authority over the top of the existing councils in Lincolnshire, with the aim being to draw down funding and responsibilities usually overseen directly by government to local decision-makers.

As Lincolnshire builds its case for the next round of devolution bidding, the latest deal could be seen as the template for the way forward.

Leaders across the county were asked if it meant a directly elected mayor-led scheme would be the way forward, and whether, Lincolnshire County, North East Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire councils – as the lead authorities on the plans, could exclude district councils.

Cllr Martin Hill, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, said the East Midlands deal was “significant” and had “the potential to transform services and economic opportunities for hundreds of thousands of residents”.

“This landmark deal will create the first ever combined county authority, a model much more suited to large geographical county areas,” he said.

“Councillors and officers from all councils in both counties and neighbouring cities have worked hard to make this deal a reality and continued close collaboration will be key in progressing devolution for the area.

“With this week’s announcement swiftly following the devolution deal in North Yorkshire, it is clear good progress is now being made on the county devolution agenda.”

Martin Hill added: “To obtain maximum devolution, the government is insisting on mayoral combined county authorities and districts are expected to play a strong role in the process.”

However, he did not answer specifically whether districts could be excluded from future deals.

He added that Greater Lincolnshire’s authorities would be urging the new prime minister to “go further and faster than before” and ensure devolution measures move forward.

The leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, Cllr Philip Jackson, said the decisions ahead would “shape the future of, not only this region, but regions right across the UK.”

“It is the responsibility of the leaders of today, both within local and central government, to ensure those decisions are the right ones to bring about positive change, investment, and growth for us all,” he explained.

“Those discussions have been taking place across Lincolnshire for some time and will continue as we look to engage, discuss, and do what is right for our communities.”

However, he did not answer directly either of the key questions posed to him.

The South & East Lincolnshire Councils Partnership includes East Lindsey District Council, Boston Borough Council and South Holland District Council.

A devolution deal has been in the works for a number of years, with a previous bid rejected by some councils in 2016 while government did not approve a further application earlier this year.

Council leaders feel the right deal would allow for local decisions on key infrastructure to be made by those in the best position to do so.

However, there have been concerns that the move could lead to a loss of power from some of the lowest tier councils and, potentially, local government reorganisation which would dissolve them.

Council Leader Craig Leyland, speaking on behalf of the South & East Lincolnshire Councils Partnership, said: “The ten councils in Lincolnshire have been working closely with the private sector and third sector partners to illustrate a vision for the future of the whole county.

“This includes the possibility of a Mayoral Combined Authority.

“It is important that every household has an equal stake in this authority, including an equally weighted say in how it is governed regardless of being in the North, South, east or West of this great Historic county.”

North Lincolnshire and other previously vocal council leaders were also asked for their views, but did not respond by the time of publication.