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Four counties start work on devolution

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Dorset, Lincolnshire, Hertfordshire CCs and Wiltshire Council have moved to seek devolution deals now the government has made clear it will be receptive to bids from all types of authorities.

Lincolnshire and Hertfordshire had not acted before the general election, despite other counties such as Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire pressing ahead with combined authority proposals.

In a message to residents, Lincolnshire CC leader Martin Hill (Con) said: “It has become clear that our new local government secretary of state Greg Clark believes that devolution is the way ahead.”

Cllr Hill added: “This is not about the county council taking over nearby authorities. At this stage we are having exploratory talks with leading neighbouring councillors and chief executives to find out what the options could be.

“With our county covering such a vast area, this has meant approaching councils north of our border in North and North East Lincolnshire as well as in the south at Peterborough City Council.”

Peterborough leader John Holditch (Con) wrote in a local newspaper column that a Lincolnshire ‘super-council’ was “not going to happen”. “But we have been speaking with colleagues north of the border about working closer together,” he added.

North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire were mooted as members of a separate combined authority with Hull City Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council last month but displayed little enthusiasm for the idea.

Meanwhile, Hertfordshire leader Robert Gordon (Con) has told LGC he is due this month to meet the county’s district leaders to discuss work on a possible county devolution deal. He said it was too early to say which powers they might seek.

Wiltshire leader Jane Scott (Con) said the county was working on a plan to integrate public services within its boundaries.

She told LGC: “We want to join up the council, police and health services and also work on economic development.

“That would just be for Wiltshire as we border nine other [top tier] authorities and we do different business with each of them and that will continue.” Swindon BC, part of the historic county, has been invited to join.

Cllr Scott said Wiltshire already worked closely with the police, while the health service “knows we are doing this”.

Dorset CC leader Robert Gould (Con) said the county, its six districts and adjacent unitaries Bournemouth and Poole BCs were developing combined authority proposals, he hoped would go to the government in the autumn.

“It will be around economic development, skills, housing delivery, transport and coastal protection,” he said. “It has to go through each council’s processes, which will obviously take a little time.”

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