Greater Lincolnshire’s devolution deal is ambitious.
The three upper tier councils of Lincolnshire County Council, North Lincolnshire Council and North East Lincolnshire Council secured an ambitious £750 million devolution deal with government on 22 November 2023. The deal signifies unprecedented investment into the area and provides a catalyst for economic growth and improved outcomes for residents and people working in the area.
This is a time of considerable opportunity for Greater Lincolnshire and this proposal is designed to unlock significant long- term funding and give local leaders greater freedom to decide how best to meet local needs and create new opportunities for residents and those who come to Greater Lincolnshire for work or leisure.
We are at the heart of delivering on vital national growth sectors – through the UK Food Valley, our Freeport and our market leader role in offshore renewables. At the same time, we have a clear focus on delivering against the Levelling Up agenda and transforming our city towns and resorts. Devolution is essential to complement those initiatives through local powers, influence and decision making.
The key sectors of our economy are of strategic importance to the UK. Greater Lincolnshire has a unique place in the future success of the UK as a source of clean energy, carbon capture opportunities, and food security. It has a vital role in global trade, securing the nation’s supply chains in key industries:
- Food, fish, seafood and food manufacturing: Greater Lincolnshire is home to the UK Food Valley. It supplies 70% of seafood consumed in the UK, 30% of the nation’s vegetables, and 18% of poultry. It had a total agricultural output of over £2bn in 2019, with a seafood processing and trading cluster worth over £1.5 billion to the economy. Greater Lincolnshire will become a world leading food cluster. It has the potential to help the UK become a science superpower through its focus on new food chain automation and digital technology and innovation.
- Energy, decarbonisation and net zero: Greater Lincolnshire is at the heart of the UK’s offshore renewable energy generation, and with at least 25% of the UK’s energy production it plays a crucial role in enabling the nation to become a net energy exporter by 2040. The low carbon economy and green energy production across Greater Lincolnshire are pivotal to the UK achieving net zero. They are already worth £1.2bn per annum to the economy, employing over 12,000 people. Greater Lincolnshire has a fundamental role leveraging investment in the North Sea expanding renewable capacity and innovating in carbon capture.
- Ports, logistics and supply chains: Greater Lincolnshire is the UK gateway to Europe for the Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse. Benefiting from prime deep water locations, its ports and connectivity advantages have supported the growth of a UK-leading logistics cluster, serving industry sectors including renewables, advanced manufacturing, food manufacturing and energy. The UK economy is highly dependent on the maritime sector, with 95% of goods exports and imports moved by sea, including nearly half of the country’s food supplies and a quarter of its energy supply. Greater Lincolnshire is supporting the next phase in the evolution of its ports and the competitiveness of its logistic sector that underpin trade and national supply chains.
However, Greater Lincolnshire is not without its challenges. Public spending per head is below average when compared against the UK. The economy has an over-reliance on seasonal jobs, whether that is in tourism or agriculture. The area has carbon-rich heavy industry which is critical to the UK, but sees challenges in terms of the green agenda. Skill levels lag behind our neighbours and the rest of the UK with only 29% of our working age residents having a level 4 qualification or above. This is 32% lower than nationally.
Whilst upper tier councils have made significant investment in local infrastructure, the area has few motorways or dual carriageways and limited public transport networks. This reduces the opportunity to travel to work, learning and leisure, contributing to greater inequality. Costs are often higher and greater investment is required. Greater Lincolnshire also has an aging population which has increased 30% faster than the rest of the UK since 2020. There is a need to both attract and retain a younger workforce and residents to enable local economies to thrive.
Elsewhere in the UK devolution has helped to improve economic performance. Areas with devolution arrangements often have additional opportunities to access new funding and initiatives enabling them to outperform those areas who are yet to enter into devolved arrangements. Now is the time for Greater Lincolnshire to catch up with the most successful areas of the UK. This will be achieved through strong local leadership and a more targeted approach to skills and training, local transport, infrastructure development and regeneration.
Government has offered a range of different devolution models with the benefits reflecting the strength of local leadership. We believe that through a directly elected mayor Greater Lincolnshire would demonstrate strong leadership and unlock the full benefits of devolution.
We propose creating a Combined County Authority with an elected mayor to bring together key partners in a long-term arrangement to manage devolved powers and some existing local transport powers across Greater Lincolnshire. Through the proposed Combined County Authority senior councillors from Lincolnshire County Council, North Lincolnshire Council and North East Lincolnshire Council will work collaboratively with the City, District and Borough councils within Lincolnshire and a new mayor elected directly by residents. Local business and the police and crime commissioners would be key partners at the table informing decision-making and ensuring the right choices are made for Greater Lincolnshire.
The Combined County Authority would direct long-term infrastructure investment, investment in local communities to help them to thrive and investment in green growth, delivering food and energy security to the UK and putting Greater
Lincolnshire in a position where it can be at the forefront of renewable and clean energy technologies and production and be a world-leading provider of food, seafood and associated technological innovation It would also support improvements in the nations supply chains and maximise the strategic advantages of our ports, transforming them into the most smart, clean and efficient port clusters in the world.
Establishing a Combined County Authority is a formal, legal step, allowing upper tier councils across the area to work more closely together on key priorities such as economic development, regeneration and transport. The proposed Combined County Authority would seek to:
- Increase employment opportunities across Greater Lincolnshire
- Improve business productivity,
- Deliver efficient services and derive benefits from working at scale
- Build strong relationships with government to draw down more funding and powers in the future
- Greater control over public spending to achieve the maximum benefit
- Develop long term plans to enable faster decision-making and improved performance
- Speed up decision-making
The creation of a Combined County Authority would not result in the merger or take-over of councils in the Area. They would continue to deliver valuable local services to Greater Lincolnshire residents with some powers used concurrently by local councils and the proposed Combined County Authority. Transport powers would be brought together with the proposed Combined County Authority becoming the Local Transport Authority for Greater Lincolnshire.
Under this proposal the three upper tier councils, along with the city, district and borough councils in Greater Lincolnshire would continue to play an important role in relation to the powers and funding that is devolved to the area. These authorities will have specific consenting rights in respect to some of the powers held by the CCA and / or the Mayor, ensuring a strong local voice in decision making. The Police and Crime Commissioners for Lincolnshire and Humberside would also play an active role in the CCA, ensuring that the needs of local communities relating to public safety are represented.
Over the coming months local councils will be working with Government to bring forward a number of improvements for communities across Greater Lincolnshire. This will see investment in infrastructure to support travel and to create opportunities for businesses to grow and new jobs to be created.