One council for Lincolnshire is ‘inevitable’ plan, says county leader Hill

Coun Martin Hill, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council.  Photo supplied.
Coun Martin Hill, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council. Photo supplied.
  • Unitary poll shelved in ‘self-preservation’ act as Porter eyes three-way split

The scrapping of South Holland District Council and Lincolnshire’s seven other local authorities is “inevitable”, according to county council leader Coun Martin Hill.

County councillors are to hear plans for a public consultation on whether Lincolnshire’s seven district, borough and city councils should be axed and replaced by a new, unitary authority.

It would represent the biggest shake-up of local government in Lincolnshire for 45 years as the county council itself would also be scrapped.

Coun Hill said: “It’s no secret that I’ve long been an advocate of a unitary system of local government for Lincolnshire and the Government has made it clear that it’s the way forward.

“There are lots of studies around which show that there would be savings of up to £30million a year, or even more, plus it would make things a lot easier in terms of local government services.

“You wouldn’t have one council collecting the bins and another council disposing of the waste.

You wouldn’t have one council collecting the bins and another council disposing of the waste

Coun Martin Hill, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council

“I think it’ll happen as it’s happening everywhere else in the country and they’ve all done it successfully.”

Four weeks ago, Lincolnshire County Council announced plans to hold a poll on a unitary system for the county on May 4, the same day as elections are held for the council’s 70 seats.

But plans for the poll were shelved after three district councils, other than South Holland, objected on legal grounds.

Coun Hill said: “Because we’re having county council elections on May 4, we could have taken the opportunity to piggyback a referendum on the principle of Lincolnshire going to a unitary authority.

“Some legal issues were raised after a barrister was hired by some people who came with a judgement that we don’t agree with.

“We were very confident that we could do the poll, but what was clear is that we can’t compel the district councils to go along with it.

“Otherwise, we could have taken over the whole election process ourselves but it was too late to go along with it.”

“So there will be a consultation exercise later in the year, but I think a unitary system in Lincolnshire is inevitable.

“We get all this talk about county councils taking over, but we’d all go and such talk is more about self-preservation which is motivating some people.”

South Holland District Council gave conditional backing to the shelved poll on Lincolnshire becoming a unitary one-authority county, it has emerged.

Coun Gary Porter confirmed that provided any additional costs of a poll on how the county is governed were met by Lincolnshire County Council, he would let the poll go ahead.

But he criticised the county council and leader Coun Martin Hill for not giving voters the facts on what a change from two-tier to unitary-run council services would mean for households across Lincolnshire.

Coun Porter said: “Any council is entitled to put a proposal up and do it as the legislation changed a few months ago.

“But you should ask the public about local government reorganisation when you can put to them what the implications would be.

“In principle, you need to explain to people what the costs are and what the effect on services will be.”

The district council’s Conservative group met on Thursday to talk about plans for a Lincolnshire-wide council. Coun Porter said: “We decided that we didn’t want to start a conversation on this.

“But if someone else starts the conversation then our preferred option would be for all of Lincolnshire to be looked at and, ultimately, divided into three completely new councils, subject to public support.”