North Kesteven District Council’s Executive Board is backing plans for the creation of a new Greater Lincolnshire authority withj an elected Mayor to oversee extra funding to boost economic growth, housing and infrastructure improvements.
Ahead of further consideration by the Full Council on Wednesday, October 19, the six members of NKDC’s Executive Board unanimously supported the principles of devolution through a partnership of ten councils.
The Mayoral Combined Authority would secure new powers and resources to direct local services and investment across economic development, transport infrastructure, housing, skills development and other areas to promote growth across a region stretching from the Humber to the Wash.
Each council would continue to operate in much the same way as presently, with the leaders of each authority working together alongside a directly elected mayor to oversee and direct these higher-level decisions and investments for broader impact and benefit.
While an initial package of additional devolved funds from Government covering these early arrangements is worth a total of £450m over 30 years – averaging £15m a year – there is potential for further offers to follow covering more investment opportunities; with £200m anticipated specifically for housing.
Consultation with residents had initially come back not in favour of another expensive mayoral position being created. But the Government has made it clear that unless all 10 councils sign up to the devolution deal and a directly elected mayor it will not happen. In future the Mayoral role and that the Police and Crime Commissioner could possibly be merged
North Kesteven Council Leader Coun Marion Brighton said the new, independent mayor’s capacity for taking on responsibility for major highways such as the A15, A46 and A17 was an indication of the potential benefits which could flow from this new way of managing investment in critical infrastructure.
“We are always highlighting how we suffer from poor investment in this area under current funding arrangements and surely having direct access to these funds allocated under locally-determined strategies led by an independent mayor must be right.
“I can see real benefits from this partnership,” said Coun Brighton.
“It would be a terrible mistake if anyone were to reject it; a golden opportunity will have slipped through our fingers.”
Seeing the initial £15m in devolved funding as ‘just the tip of the iceberg’, Coun Lindsey Cawrey said ‘anyone who does not support, or who speaks against, this is doing the whole county and their individual districts a disservice.
“We have to be supportive of the broader agenda and the principles of this. We have to trust our leaders and our senior officers on this; let’s show real leadership and grab hold of this agenda,” she said.
Coun Richard Wright said it was imperative to move forward with what he called ‘the only game in town’ in terms of bringing additional resources in to Lincolnshire to stimulate economic growth, skills and opportunities.
“If we don’t, Lincolnshire will be left behind. We are often saying how Lincolnshire is the forgotten county when it comes to investment; but here it is. We have to take this opportunity, vote for it and hope that everybody else does.”
If universally supported the Government will take steps in late November for it to come into effect next Spring and for mayoral elections next May.
The Executive Board agreed to budget an annual contribution of up to £50,000 towards the operating costs of the Combined Mayoral Authority, which would include election costs, officer time and support services.
They felt that that an investment of £50,000 represented good value for money in that it unlocked investment of at least £15m per year in new money flowing into Lincolnshire, local determination of spending priorities and the potential for much more through ongoing negotiation with HM Treasury and other parts of Government.