Agenda item

Councillor Ashley Baxter (1)

This Council believes:

 

·         the current three-tier system of Local Authorities is outdated and ineffective.

·         the bureaucracy of Lincolnshire County Council is geographically remote and has become out-of-touch with the needs and aspirations of residents across the County.

 

This Council resolves to work towards:

a)    the abolition of the Lincolnshire County Council; and

b)    the devolution of power, assets and finance to a number of unitary authorities, each of a more appropriate size.

 

This Council mandates its Leader, Cabinet and Senior Officers to lobby the Secretary of State for Communities, and other appropriate authorities including local MPs, regarding the abolition of the County Council and the establishment of smaller unitary authorities to better serve the needs of people living and working in Lincolnshire.

Minutes:

Decision:

 

The Council does not support the motion submitted by Councillor Baxter in relation to the abolition of Lincolnshire County Council

 

 Councillor Baxter was invited to present his first motion:

 

This Council believes:

 

·         The current three-tier system of Local Authorities is outdated and ineffective

·         The bureaucracy of Lincolnshire County Council is geographically remote and has become out-of-touch with the needs and aspirations of residents across the County

 

This Council resolves to work towards:

 

a)    The abolition of the Lincolnshire County Council; and

b)    The devolution of power, assets and finance to a number of unitary authorities, each of a more appropriate size

 

This Council mandates its Leader, Cabinet and Senior Officers to lobby the Secretary of State for Communities, and other appropriate authorities including local MPs, regarding the abolition of the County Council and the establishment of smaller unitary authorities to better serve the needs of people living and working in Lincolnshire.

 

In making his proposition Councillor Baxter referred to a duplication of functions between county and district council and the confusion this caused with members of the public. He also considered Lincolnshire County Council to be remote, citing specifically the distance between the Deepings and Lincoln He felt that Lincolnshire was too big, which made the County Council inaccessible, except through the periodic surgeries held by the local County Councillors. He felt that the functions of Lincolnshire County Council should be devolved to a more local level either through a unitary authority of South Kesteven or by combining with one or two other districts to make those unitary authorities slightly larger.

 

In seconding the proposal, reference was made to the area over which the County Council was required to spread its resources, which meant that there were some teams and equipment, specifically relating to road maintenance, that the seconder had not seen in the area. He supported a return to a model like the old borough councils, which would provide more local control over local affairs.

 

During debate on the motion reference was made to those functions of the County Council that were set out in statute including the burdens and responsibilities associated with that tier of local government. The complexities of changing from a two-tier to a single-tier model of local government were highlighted, including the time it would take and the amount of service reorganisation that would be required. A member who had previous experience of serving in a unitary authority stated that Councillors serving in that authority had found the same issues and frustrations as Members in two-tier areas. The benefit of the Leader lobbying the Secretary of State in the first instance was challenged because, prior to any approach, clear proposals would need to be worked up with local partners.

 

Reference was made to the original speaker’s comment about the duplication of services; it was clarified that there was a clear distinction between the functions of county and district councils in respect of waste collection and disposal, and that both parties worked together effectively as part of the Lincolnshire Waste Partnership. Members who sat on both the county and district councils gave an overview of the scope of items that were covered during Lincolnshire County Council meetings and the distinction between those matters and the business discussed at meetings of South Kesteven District Council.

 

Those members speaking in support of the motion countered that the complexities of any change should not be a deterrent. One Member commented that SKDC was an excellent council that was well run and enjoyed a good reputation. Reference was made to the proposals for devolution that the Council was asked to consider during 2017, which, if successful, would have seen the creation of a Greater Lincolnshire Unitary authority which would make that tier of local government even more remote. There was also a feeling that devolution discussions would continue and it would be to the Council’s advantage to put itself in a position where it could drive the agenda.

 

Some questions were raised about whether any new unitary authority may necessitate the creation of a town council for Grantham. It was suggested that under a county-based unitary authority a town council would definitely be required, while under a more local unitary arrangement it might be possible to take the approach of creating an area committee.

 

The proposer of the motion was given the opportunity to sum up then a vote was taken, which was lost.