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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?

 

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:

 

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:

The new Greater Lincolnshire Combined Authority, working with the mayor, will receive the following powers:

In addition:

 

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.

 

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:

 

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.