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November 26, 2016 12:10 PM
By Cllr John Marriott - Lincoln, Sleaford and North Hykeham

John MarriottIt looks like the attempt to devolve more power to the Greater Lincolnshire area from the Humber to the Wash is now dead in the water, following the decision of the Lincolnshire County Council and the South Kesteven District Council to reject the offer from HM Government in the second week of October. Although very much devolution 'lite', the offer from the government would appear to be all that there is available to rural areas at the moment. It was a start, no more and no less; but it could have opened the door for much, much more.

The offer was for £15 million per annum until at least 2020, paid to the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (GLLEP) comprising all first and second tier councils from the Humber to the Wash, together with local business partners. Included in the package was more control over highways matters and the opportunity for increased borrowing. It was hardly a fortune; but there could have been more to come in future.

The reluctance of two of the ten councils involved to support the move was based largely on their aversion to the idea of an elected mayor, which was a sine qua non in this case. The problem was that many of those Councillors rejecting the offer based their decision largely on The findings of a public consultation that elicited responses from barely 1% of the local population. To say that "the people of Lincolnshire have spoken" as many did to justify their position shows a weird grasp of representative democracy. Indeed, it smacks of cowardice.

As nearly half the members of the County Council are also members of their District Councils, some colleagues had two votes. I know of one who actually voted for at District and against at a County. There may well have been others.

Where do we go from here? Who knows? If only the idea of the elected Mayor, which might make sense in places like Greater Manchester, could be dropped, we might see a way forward. As a member of the Lincolnshire County Council, whose rejection tipped the balance, I was prepared to go ahead regardless. However, it wasn't the first time in my political life that I ended up with the minority. It makes me wonder whether local government, or at least many of its elected representatives, possesses the vision and the willingness to make tough decisions, to take on more powers. Indeed, are these Councillors incapable of seeing the big picture?

It's a real shame that this first, albeit feeble, attempt to claw back powers from Whitehall has failed its first test around here. So it looks as if urban areas like Manchester and Sheffield will get a head start, whilst those of us in rural areas will continue to be the poor relations.

Cllr John Marriott

John is Member for Hykeham Forum Division on Lincolnshire County Council