“Time for a change”: Councillor digs at Gainsborough MP over criticism of devolution consultation

Published on 10 January 2024, by Gainsboroughlive | No comments yet |

A senior Lincolnshire County Councillor has suggested it could be “time for a change” in the Gainsborough constituency, following a letter from the Member of Parliament criticising the council’s devolution consultation process.

Sir Edward Leigh, MP for Gainsborough for four decades, sent an open letter to Lincolnshire County Council over its handling of the devolution deal for Greater Lincolnshire on Monday, January 8.

The Greater Lincolnshire devolution deal, announced towards the end of 2023 as part of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement, paves the way for the creation of a new combined local mayoral authority, bringing together Lincolnshire with North and North East Lincolnshire.

It translates to an annual budget of £24 million for 30 years, handled by an elected mayor of Greater Lincolnshire, with spending decisions made in conjunction with local councils. 

In the letter to Lincolnshire County Council, the Gainsborough Member of Parliament argued the consultation process for the devolution deal offered “no opportunity for members of the public to write in to give or explain their views.”

He also accused the council of devising an online survey that is “artfully phrased in order to obtain the result desired by those who have crafted it.”

Sir Edward said: “I am worried that the elderly, the vulnerable, and those who do not have easy access to the internet may be discriminated against and are being prevented to take part in this consultation.

“What measures, for example, have been taken to ensure that the blind and those with sight-related issues are able to take part?”

We’ve put these concerns to senior members of Lincolnshire County Council, who were quick to refute the claims made by Sir Edward Leigh that the consultation options were unfair.

Cllr Colin Davie, Executive Councillor for Economic Development, Environment and Planning at Lincolnshire County Council, said he was a “big supporter” of devolution for the Greater Lincolnshire area, and suggested that perhaps the Gainsborough MP had been in his post for “too long.”

“I’ve got a great deal of time for Edward Leigh,” Cllr Davie said. “He and I see the world, in certain aspects, in the same way, but I’m afraid to say he’s totally wrong. Maybe he’s been around too long, maybe it’s time for a change, too.

“I think [devolution] gives us that opportunity to plough our own furrow better, as they say, and the public don’t mind paying for things if they know what the money is going to be spent on, number one, and number two, that it’s not going to be wasted by a load of bureaucrats.

“It can be spent on things they can see in front of their eyes — their roads get improved, they can get their parents into a care home if they need to, and they can see that money is spent on dealing with issues around flooding — rather than just talking about it.”

Cllr Martin Hill, leader of Lincolnshire County Council, said the local authority had “been very careful” and consulted with organisations both externally and within government to gain “strong advice” on how to maximise the possibilities of the consultation.

“We are making sure that we do go to those seldom heard people, so people with disabilities,” he said.

“As well as the online consultation, starting [Wednesday, January 10] there will also be physical meetings where people can go, but we are making a special effort to make sure that we try to get to everybody because we appreciate not everyone is online.

“We’re doing it very much in line with where it has been done elsewhere, so I don’t actually agree with Sir Edward’s comments.”

Sir Edward Leigh said he “doesn’t respond to personal attacks,” and stressed that the “serious issue” of proper consultation should be at the forefront of the agenda.

“This is a serious issue on which the consultation should provide a clear opportunity for people to state whether or not they want a mayor,” he said.

Sir Edward Leigh is not alone in his criticism of the consultation for devolution in Greater Lincolnshire. In recent weeks, independent councillors across a range of local authorities, including Cllr Phil Dilks in South Kesteven, Jill Mackinson-Sanders in East Lindsey and Amelia Bailey in North Kesteven, have expressed frustration at the wording of the consultation.

Originally published by MyLocal Lincolnshire

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