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'Dramatic' changes needed to revive Greater Lincs devo deal

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The Greater Lincolnshire devolution deal is “not quite dead yet” but it will take “something dramatic” to resurrect it, according to the county council’s leader Martin Hill (Con).

While members on Lincolnshire CC voted overwhelmingly to reject forming a mayoral combined authority yesterday, Cllr Hill told LGC he has until 21 November to make a final decision.

Councillors’ concerns centred on the requirement to adopt a directly elected mayor.

Cllr Hill said he would write to ministers to get clarification on that point even though prime minister Theresa May has said areas with proposed agreements in place, like Greater Lincolnshire, will have to adopt an elected mayor.

Speaking to LGC after the vote yesterday Cllr Hill said: “It’s not looking great but it’s not quite dead yet – it’s not quite under the waves.

“I will write to ministers to just get proper confirmation that’s the case [that the region will have to adopt an elected mayor].

“There’s clearly a lack of enthusiasm about a mayor, certainly with the amount of funding currently on the table.”

The final vote saw 43 councillors vote against the proposal, while 17 voted in favour and five abstained. Just two members of the executive voted in favour of the proposal, while Cllr Hill was among those who abstained. He said he did that as he is not due to take a final decision until next month.

Cllr Hill said: “If there’s no change [in the government’s offer] I can’t see a way forward for continuing with the devolution agenda in Lincolnshire.

“That was a clear message: it’s off unless something dramatic happens.”

LGC reported in June how Cllr Hill, among others, expressed a lack of confidence about getting councillors to back the deal.

South Kesteven and South Holland DCs are still due to vote on the proposals on Monday and Wednesday next week.

South Holland leader Lord Porter, who is also chair of the Local Government Association, told LGC he was “massively confident” that his council would back the deal.

In the immediate aftermath of the vote on Thursday, Lord Porter tweeted that the county had killed off the deal. However, he subsequently withdrew that comment and suggested the deal could still go ahead.

Speaking to LGC this morning he said the vote was only advisory and Cllr Hill would need to make a decision based on ”the world as it looked on 21 November”.

“All the leaders [in Lincolnshire] are positive towards the agenda; until the draft orders [to legislate for the deal] are written it’s still on the table,” he said. 

LGC previously reported how South Kesteven’s leader Bob Adams (Con) said his council’s vote hangs “in the balance” due to concerns about adopting a directly elected mayor along with an issue over money previously earmarked for a relief road in the district being incorporated into the wider devolution deal, which includes funding worth up to £450m over 30 years.

Cllr Hill said it was “quite frustrating” the deal looks set to collapse at this point and admitted relations locally could be strained as a result of the vote.

“There will be disappointed people and we will have to work through that, but democracy is democracy,” said Cllr Hill.

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