Guest column: Elected mayor cannot be justified

Coun Pat O'Connor

Coun Pat O'Connor

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It has been an interesting time on the County Council.

With the need to continue to identify substantial savings in the budget, every area of the council’s work is being looked at.

The various scrutiny committees have been working extremely hard to make sure that the residents of Lincolnshire are continuing to get value for money.

The latest area to be examined is heritage where a report outlined the way forward for the development of a revitalised but sustainable service.

In essence, it explored ways of reducing the cost of the archive and heritage service whilst improving and enhancing what is provided to the public.

The recent success of the Lincoln Castle Revealed project was the catalyst for the plan that should ensure the financial stability of the service and assure the care and preservation of Lincolnshire’s heritage.

A number of new initiatives will result in a more commercial stance that will also allow the re-investment of any profit directly back into the operation to improve performance.

The goal is to make sites sufficient in time without having to outsource everything.

It is not without risks, which is why it was scrutinised very carefully.

The comments of the committee were that there was a danger of becoming too focused on income generation.

As a result, the smaller heritage sites could become isolated and harder to sustain.

These comments were reported back to the council executive, who approved the plan.

Here in Gainsborough, we have been ahead of the game for years in staging the annual beer festival in the Old Hall.

The festival not only brings visitors from all over the country to this heritage site, but also attracts income for local business and charities.

It was a pleasure to welcome so many visitors to the festival.

At the recent extraordinary meeting of the county council the subject of devolving certain powers from Government to a more local level was debated.

There had been a consultation with all of Lincolnshire’s residents.

And the consensus was that, while devolution is desirable, an elected mayor and the additional bureaucracy that would impose, was not wanted by anyone.

The debate followed a similar reasoning.

The requirement for an elected mayor, with all the trappings of office, at a not inconsiderable cost of £2 million being quoted by many councillors, was an expense that could not be justified.

The imposition of an additional layer of local government, complete with tax gathering powers, being foisted on the county did not sit well with many.

The council therefore rejected the Government’s offer of up to £15 million per annum in funding of specific projects subject to all the Lincolnshire councils agreeing to the creation of a mayor and a mayoral authority.

For me, it was a privilege to be part of a democratic decision that reflected the will of the people.