County council leader set to say “No” to combined authority deal

Lincolnshire County Council Leader, Coun Martin Hill.
Lincolnshire County Council Leader, Coun Martin Hill.

Plans for a combined authority in Lincolnshire, with a £15 million a year budget, look uncertain after a council leader hinted he would reject the deal.

Coun Martin Hill, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, confirmed today that he was unlikely to support a deal which could see powers over transport, housing and flood management pass to a new authority headed by a directly-elected mayor.

At a meeting three weeks ago, county councillors voted 43 to 17 against the Government-backed deal, with five abstentions, despite eight district and borough councils having voted for the deal.

Coun Hill, who will make his formal decision on Monday, November 21, said: “Since the vote by county councillors, I have discussed the issues again with the Government.

“But I was told that a mayor is still regarded as a ‘must’ and, in considering my position on the deal, I have absolutely at the forefront of my mind the views of the 4,000-plus residents who took part in the recent consultation.

“Although 59 per cent of respondents said our councils should pursue greater funding and powers from the Government, 49 per cent opposed the idea of a Mayoral Combined Authority, compared to 47 per cent who were in favour of it.

“I share their concerns about a directly-elected mayor, with all the extra costs involved and with such a strong vote against the proposal from county councillors across all political parties too, I am minded not to support a directly-elected mayor for the region based on what is currently on offer.”

The only council to vote against the deal was South Kesteven District Council, while South Holland District Council is one of the eight councils in favour of the setting up of a Mayoral Combined Authority.

Coun Malcolm Chandler, Deputy Leader of South Holland District Council, said: “It demonstrates the determination of this council for the district to share in, and benefit from, the accelerated growth and increased value of the Greater Lincolnshire economy which a devolution agenda is aimed to deliver.

“It is important that all ten councils continue to work together to achieve the full benefits of devolved powers and the associated financial support available to Greater Lincolnshire.”

However, South Kesteven District Council Leader, Coun Bob Adams, said: “We have looked at this with an open mind and have listened to the arguments from the Department for Communities and Local Government and our own members.

“In a sense, we will still be involved as part of the shadow combined authority so we will still be getting an input as far as discussions are concerned.

“But as you negotiate, you don’t declare your hand from day one.

“You go to the table, you talk, you listen and form your judgements and that is what we’ve done.”