For the past 60 years, Lincolnshire has been poor relation in the East Midlands Region.
Its agrarian culture and sparse population made economic development expensive. In 2010 the Coalition Government announced the abolition of regions in favour of local enterprise partnerships (LEP). The result was the creation of the Greater Lincolnshire LEP. I doubt if many Gainsborough residents have heard of this body.
Its remit from the government is “to improve infrastructure and conditions for doing business in Greater Lincolnshire, from the Humber to the Wash.” Although West Lindsey District Council and Lincolnshire County Council are partners there is no representation from the Gainsborough catchment area. Why does it matter that we have no direct representation on this LEP? Recently the Government announced that it proposed to make £17.9 million available to Greater Lincolnshire for improvements in public transport. Greater Lincolnshire LEP is now required to appoint a Local Transport Board to identify how this money is to be spent over a four year period starting in 2015. £17.9 million will not go far in an area of 2,687 square miles. For example in 2009 the Brigg Line, the railway from Bartnetby to Gainsborough, was upgraded to take heavy freight trains. The £18 million cost was met by ABP, the owners of the port of Immingham.
The Government has calculated the £17.9 sum based on population. In cities with high population densities, Sheffield has 4,000 people per square mile, it is easier to plan transport, but in Lincolnshire with just 387 people per square mile and most of those living in rural communities, the costs are proportionally higher. GRaB, Gainsborough’s rail and bus users group, hopes that Greater Lincolnshire will put forth a cogent argument that in order to stimulate economic activity in areas of rural poverty it is necessary increase the funding available otherwise Lincolnshire is in danger of remaining the the poor relation for another sixty years.
Although Gainsborough is set to double its population over the next twenty years GRaB has yet to be convinced that we shall receive a fair share of infrastructure cake of which this budget forms part.
Barry Coward, Secretary, Gainsborough Rail and Bus Users Group