Lincolnshire people know what’s best for people in Lincolnshire.
It is that belief which lies behind the announcement in last week’s Budget that the government is going to support the creation of a new combined authority for Greater Lincolnshire, under a directly elected mayor, and transfer to it strategic powers over transport, housing, skills training and flood risk management. It is now over 15 years since Londoners were given control of many of the vital services supporting the capital city through a new directly elected Mayor. Since 2010 the government has done similar deals with other urban centres like Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool. Many people were beginning to ask why rural areas were not being offered the same opportunity to run their own affairs. Last week the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered the answer we had all been looking for and confirmed that what is good enough for Londoners and Liverpudlians is good enough for the people of Lincolnshire, too. That’s why all of Lincolnshire’s local councils as well as its Local Economic Partnership have signed up to the plan.
The election of a mayor of Greater Lincolnshire will ensure that the new combined authority will be directly accountable to everyone living in the county and will give the county a champion to fight our corner in Whitehall and Westminster.
We have all seen how Boris Johnson has given the capital real clout. While I can’t promise that we will be able to find as colourful a character to lead Greater Lincolnshire, I am sure that in May 2017 the county will elect a woman or man who lives and breathes Lincolnshire values, brings some plain common sense to every discussion and will battle doggedly for our interests.
Ever since the Second World War, government in the UK has been excessively centralised. Ministers and civil servants have tried to micromanage communities they knew little about and understood less. I am glad that this Conservative government is more humble. I am sure that I won’t agree with every decision that the new Mayor of Greater Lincolnshire makes but that doesn’t bother me. I trust the people of Lincolnshire to know what’s best for them – and to elect someone who will deliver it.