We know we have considerable challenges ahead but this should not stop us looking at innovative and ambitious ways of delivering services and advancing this district and county.
As a local authority we work with our neighbours and look to how we can deliver services more efficiently and cost effectively. The same principle should apply to our relationship with Central Government. Local authorities instinctively know that many responsibilities held by Central Government could be better delivered on a more local level more efficiently and to better effect.
Successive Governments have talked about the potential for regional devolution and I am now pleased to say we are willing participants in the Devolution proposal for Greater Lincolnshire recently announced by the Chancellor.
Lincolnshire has historically faired poorly in successive Government financial settlements in comparison to metropolitan areas. All this in spite of the fact that we as a county are net contributors to UK PLC. This disparity between rural and urban areas needs to be addressed and the Greater Lincolnshire Devolution deal is a fantastic opportunity to right this unfairness.
The Devolution deal will see crucial powers and responsibilities handed over to a newly created Combined Authority. This new body is not directly another tier of Local Government but rather a Board of all the Leaders of Lincolnshire Councils, headed by a directly elected Mayor. The Mayor acts as the Chairman of the Combined Authority with powers agreed and limited by the Leaders and Councils of Lincolnshire.
So what will we gain control over?
Key to the proposed Devolution deal is a growth fund that will provide £15 million over 30 years.
Lincolnshire Councils and business groups have long held an ambition to manage the delivery of the skills agenda for young adults and this deal delivers powers to make this possible. There are also significant opportunities in respect how we manage our transport infrastructure. Key for East Lindsey is the issue of maintaining our flood defences so that we can attract investment and maintain growth. This is a huge opportunity to prioritise schemes for our benefit. The announcement by the Chancellor is but one step on a journey that will bring more opportunity.
Over the summer, residents will be consulted about the detail of what Devolution will mean for Greater Lincolnshire. It is for individual Councils to consider the proposal. I personally believe there are very real opportunities and while a Mayor may not be a concept that is immediately palatable, the advantage of holding the levers of power and delivering services previously held by distant Government departments is one we need to consider carefully.
Councillor Craig Leyland is Leader of ELDC.