Greater Lincolnshire devolution deal agreed
In his budget statement today Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced important new powers and funding are to be passed from the Government to the Greater Lincolnshire area.
A devolution deal document has been agreed with Whitehall by all ten local authorities from the Humber to The Wash.
Although all the councils will continue to exist in their current form, they will also come together to form a "combined authority" to exercise the new powers. Like other areas with devolved powers, such as Sheffield and Manchester, the combined authority will also have its own directly-elected mayor.
The funding and responsibilities will include transport, housing, skills training and flood-risk management. Further commitments are also agreed on health and social care, as well as court and prison services. The aim is to ensure local accountability, making the new body answerable to the one million people in Greater Lincolnshire.
The ten local authorities involved are Lincolnshire County Council, North Lincolnshire Council, North-East Lincolnshire Council, City of Lincoln Council, Boston Borough Council and South Kesteven, West Lindsey, South Holland, East Lindsey, North Kesteven District Councils.
Each council will have to formally agree the deal at their full council, following consultation with residents in the summer.
The devolution arrangements could boost the area's economy by £8 billion, create 29,000 jobs and provide 100,000 new homes. The combined authority will receive £15 million a year, for the next 30 years, for infrastructure projects to boost economic growth and will have responsibility for a devolved and consolidated, multi-year local transport budget for the entire combined authority area.
The funding will only be for new responsibilities and will not affect the current budget proposals recently agreed by each council.
The Greater Lincolnshire bid also has the support of other public bodies such as the Local Enterprise Partnership and the police.
Cllr Peter Bedford, Leader of Boston Borough Council, said: "This is a very important first step towards devolution, but there is still a lot of detail to be worked out. However, it is good news in that important decisions and spending which affect local people and communities will be made locally and not miles away in Westminster. All of the themes in the deal give us huge opportunities but perhaps none more so than housing and transport."
Greater Lincolnshire Devolution - Questions & Answers
What is devolution?
The Government is offering places in England the chance to have greater responsibility and control over decisions and spending in their region. This process of transferring powers and decisions which would usually be taken by central Government to a more local level or regional level is called devolution. The powers from Government will come down to local Leaders.
How do things currently work?
Currently, most spending decisions affecting the Greater Lincolnshire area are made by central Government. Many of the taxes raised locally flow back to central Government for it to redistribute as it sees fit.
Why would places want to have more powers and responsibilities from central Government?
- To focus spending on local priorities, and have more of a say over local taxation;
- To work together across services and use local knowledge to get better value for money;
- To be more self-sufficient and have more responsibility for the future of the local area;
- For decisions to be taken by locally-elected politicians working with their private sector partners on the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) who better understand local issues, and can be held to account locally.
How do places get these powers and responsibilities?
Individual councils cannot get these extra powers and resources on their own. The Government has been clear that to have the most powers and responsibilities devolved, places must:
- Be part of a joint body with other places where decisions about these things would be taken. Technically, this is called a combined authority;
- Have an elected mayor who would have responsibility over the powers and resources gained through a deal;
- Have an agreed arrangement by all the places involved, as well as central Government.
What is a LEP?
LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnerships) are business-led partnerships of local businesses, local authorities and other partners to promote economic growth across a specific area. LEPs are overseen by the Secretaries of State for Business Innovation and Skills, and Communities and Local Government. LEPs can bid for funding from Government through "Growth Deals".
What is a combined authority?
Combined authorities are statutory bodies within which local authorities work together to deliver economic development, regeneration and transport functions. The idea is that if local authorities work together on these issues, they can work more effectively.
Doesn't this just create an extra tier of Government?
In reality, the combined authority cabinet will be formed by the existing leaders of the ten constituent local authorities and chaired by the directly-elected mayor. Devolution would primarily be about strengthening local arrangements, with greater democratic accountability and powers to take decisions which currently take place in London; it should be more efficient and more effective. The existing leaders of the constituent councils in the Greater Lincolnshire Area (Boston Borough Council, City of Lincoln Council, East Lindsey District Council, Lincolnshire County Council, North East Lincolnshire Council, North Kesteven District Council, North Lincolnshire Council, South Holland District Council, South Kesteven District Council and West Lindsey District Council) will form the Cabinet of the Greater Lincolnshire Combined Authority.
How will I benefit?
Decisions taken about the Greater Lincolnshire area affect you, your family, your career and your quality of life in many different ways.
Because the combined authority is locally accountable, it will be motivated to deliver specifically to the people of Greater Lincolnshire. In addition, money would be spent in ways that respond directly to the needs of the population. This means more jobs, better roads, improved access to education and altogether a better standard of living.
What will happen to local council services if the devolution agreement is approved?
There will be no impact on council services as a result of devolution. They will continue to be delivered by local councils.
Why do we need a mayor to get fully devolved powers from Government?
The Government has been clear that places need an elected mayor to access devolved powers and resources. We won't get this funding and new powers without one. An elected mayor would act as an individual to unite and work across the area, and can be held to account for decisions made locally.
What will the mayor and the combined authority do?
A new, directly-elected mayor will act as chairman to the Greater Lincolnshire Combined Authority. They will not have any responsibility for existing councils and their services. The mayor will exercise the following powers and functions devolved from central Government:
- Responsibility for a devolved multi-year local transport budget for the area of the Combined Authority;
- Ability to franchise bus services, which will support the Combined Authority's delivery of smart and integrated ticketing across the Combined Authority's constituent councils;
- Oversight of a new Joint Investment and Assets Board to review all public sector land and property assets and help unlock land for housing and employment;
- Ability to make proposals to help take forward large developments or new settlements;
The new Greater Lincolnshire Combined Authority, working with the mayor, will receive the following powers:
- Control of a new additional £15 million a year funding allocation over 30 years, to be invested to boost growth; this is new money specifically for growth projects;
- Responsibility for developing a strategic infrastructure delivery plan which will identify the infrastructure needed to support the increased delivery of new homes;
- Responsibility for chairing an area-based review of 16+ skills provision and devolved 19+ adult skills funding from 2018/19;
- To help tackle long-term unemployment in Greater Lincolnshire, the Combined Authority will feed into the national design of the new Work and Health Programme;
- To move with the Government and local criminal justice partners towards a co-commissioning arrangement for services for Greater Lincolnshire offenders serving short sentences;
- To work with the Government, Police and Crime Commissioners, local prison governors and the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC) to allow more local flexibility with other local services;
- To contribute to the outcomes from the Water Resources Study and the objectives set out in the resulting Greater Lincolnshire LEP's Water Management Plan.
- HM Government will work with the Greater Lincolnshire Combined Authority to agree specific funding flexibilities. The joint ambition will be to give the Greater Lincolnshire Combined Authority a single pot to invest in its economic growth.
How will the new mayor work?
The mayor will chair the Combined Authority (CA), the members of the CA will make up the mayor's Cabinet. The mayor and CA will be scrutinised and held to account by the GLCA Overview and Scrutiny committee(s) - in turn made up of the chairmen of scrutiny from each local authority in the area. The mayor will develop strategies with the CA.
- The Cabinet will also examine the mayor's spending plans and will be able to amend his/her plans, if two-thirds of the constituent members agree to do so;
- The Mayor will have one vote on the CA, as will other voting members;
- The Mayor will be a member of the Local Enterprise Partnership, alongside the other members of the CA, recognising the importance of the private sector in local economic growth.
What if the mayor wants to do things that our local leaders don't agree with?
The mayor will need to consult her/his Cabinet on their strategies and spending plans and her/his Cabinet will have powers to reject decisions (if two thirds agree to do so). We have spent many years building strong working relationships across both the public and private sectors and those relationships will stand us in good stead.
Who in Government will oversee the mayor and what powers will they have?
Locally, the mayor will be held to account by voters (elections every four/five years) and the Greater Lincolnshire Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The democratically-elected leaders of the Greater Lincolnshire Combined Authority will be able to amend and veto the mayor's budget and strategies with a two-thirds majority.
There will be five yearly "gateway assessments" by Government (HM Treasury) to look at the impact of our investments on the economy.
Who will get to vote for the mayor?
It will be the residents of Greater Lincolnshire (from the Humber to The Wash) who get to vote for the mayor. The vote will take place in 2017.
How much will the mayor be paid for the job?
This needs to be discussed. No figures have been determined. There are no direct comparisons in existence yet.
What role will the business community play?
Businesses across Greater Lincolnshire have a critical role to play and we'll continue to work closely with them both as individual councils and as a combined authority. The proposed mayor will be a member of the Greater Lincolnshire LEP alongside other members of the combined authority, recognising the importance of the private sector in leading the future of Greater Lincolnshire's economy.
How will this devolution make a difference?
It will give Greater Lincolnshire a dedicated resource for the long term and means we can invest now and in future in projects which will bring more business investment and more jobs to the local economy. But it is different to the budgets which councils receive to fund core services. The funding is vital for the Greater Lincolnshire economy because:
- It is a commitment for the long-term. A significant boost to future planning and will enable Greater Lincolnshire to have the right people and expertise to deliver the growth;
- Because we know funding will be available, we can borrow against it, attract private sector investment and fund major projects, such as new transport connections which can take years to build and therefore need funding committed for the long term;
- Investing in economic growth is a key way of growing our economy for the long term.
Haven't you already signed the deal?
Greater Lincolnshire has not formally committed to anything. We have only agreed what is in effect a heads of terms agreement with Government. It does not legally commit either side to anything. We signed it with the clear understanding that we would engage with residents and businesses to find out their views. Once we have done this we will seek to formalise the next stage of the process.
Is this an end-point for devolution or is there the chance for us to get more powers?
We will continue to negotiate for further powers and resources - in the consultation questions we ask about things you may wish to see local control over.