There have been rumours for a time that the Tories are hell-bent on getting rid of North East Lincolnshire Council, joining us with other authorities to create a new super council. Now press coverage is awash with speculation that the Government want to reduce the number of councils in order to save money, with 600,000 said to be the size required for a new authority. NELC has less than 160,000 within its boundaries, so we would be prime candidates for any axe.
But such changes wouldn’t be of benefit to the people we represent. Prior to the creation of Humberside in the early 1970s, Grimsby had administratively been a County Borough, responsible for schools as well as housing. Schools were then handed over to Humberside, while new district councils were set up to cover both Grimsby and Cleethorpes. Yet the centre of Humberside was north of the Humber, namely the town of Beverley. The river acted as a genuine barrier within the county, which costly bridge tolls didn’t help. Thankfully in the mid-1990s NELC came into being as a unitary authority, joining together Grimsby and Cleethorpes. “Better because we’re closer to the people” was its appropriate tag line. For Cleethorpes and Grimsby geographically merge, making NELC a logical entity we can all relate to.
What about the economic uncertainty if we join with rural Lincolnshire? I would feel unhappy as a council making decisions about places, I know little of. What’s more I’d have trouble accessing them, relying as I do on public transport. Meanwhile those with cars would end up with having a higher fuel bill, as inter-council travel expenses aren’t met by the authority.
Extra travelling takes time and will hardly encourage more people to put themselves up to stand for the council. The public will also find it hard to relate to a new authority, and just as with Police & Crime Commissioners elections, I can see turnouts dropping still further.
Is it a coincidence that this is all happening at a time when the Tories are in control at Westminster as well as running NELC and its neighbour North Lincolnshire? Of course not! We need to tell the public what is happening and to gain back power in NELC next year to stop these party-political proposals.