‘Super Council’ could be on the cards - claim

Lincolnshire County Council EMN-150104-103809001
Lincolnshire County Council EMN-150104-103809001

A new super council stretching from the Humber to Peterborough could be on the cards, it has been revealed.

The dramatic development comes as Lincolnshire County Council is asking the Government about running services in neighbouring North East Lincolnshire Council.

If approved, it could be the first step toward creating a single unitary authority - covering a huge geographical area - which County Council leader Martin Hill says would save £30m a year.

The county’s low population means it receives little per-capita funding from Government, but a combined authority including more populous areas would see it receive much more government money.

Lincolnshire will submit its expression of interest over NE Lincolnshire this month.

Lincolnshire would effectively run a number of frontline services in NE Lincs which are currently controlled by Humberside County Council, including police and fire operations.

Sources at Lincolnshire County Council say the approach to NE Lincs is one of several options being considered to secure a fairer funding deal from Whitehall.

The County Council is also being linked with a series of ‘deals’ with other neighbouring authorities.

The new body would inevitably grab the lion’s share of Central Government funding in a move that could sound the death knell for some other authorities, including a number of district councils.

At the moment, the County Council is stressing the approach to NE Lincs it is not a ‘power grab’ but is ‘exploring all options’ to secure increased funding and protect key services.

Those options may also feature different bodies - including county and district councils - sharing more services.

Colin Mair - the UKIP group leader on Lincolnshire County Council - confirmed the ‘approach’ to NE Lincolnshire would be submitted this month. He revealed other councils could be part of the process but admitted a deal with the Peterborough City Council had been put on the back burner.

The development regarding NE Lincs comes as Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill revealed he is lobbying Local Government Secretary Greg Clark to secure a ‘fairer financial deal’ and more devolved powers.

Coun Hill posted on the County Council website the authority has made annual savings of £129m since 2011 and must cut £120 million more from its budget by 2018. He confirms an option to replace existing county and district councils with a single unitary authority would save £30m a year. Coun Hill described the pressure to make savings as a “big challenge”, adding Lincolnshire was working with “one hand tied behind our back”.

He added: “In my submission to Mr Clark, I made clear that Lincolnshire has for years been given far less financial support by the Government than many other areas.

”If we simply received the average funding for shire areas, our local authorities would gain an extra £145m a year.

“That would boost Lincolnshire’s spending power substantially, enabling us to find extra savings while still protecting frontline services.

“Beyond the funding questions, there are other concerns that need to be addressed - and sooner rather than later.

“In particular, I’ve asked Mr Clark to consider the issue of devolved powers, which could really unlock the potential of county areas like ours.

”With greater responsibilities, we could integrate services much more closely with key partners such as health, the police and other councils across the Greater Lincolnshire area, cutting costs and promoting efficiency.”

Coun Mair claimed the idea had the backing of key bodies including Whitehall, the police and health bosses. It is also a formula that has been followed successfully in other county areas such as Cornwall, Wiltshire and Shropshire.

Coun Mair said change was inevitable: “If we took control of services in NE Lincolnshire for example, that would add another 250,000 people to the criteria for funding.”

At the time of going to press, NE Lincs County Council and Peterborough City Council had not responded to requests for comments.