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Ex-SKDC leader Matthew Lee says unitary councils are back on the agenda

The former leader of South Kesteven District Council has said that Lincolnshire County Council is to again debate creating a “single unitary authority”.

Coun Lee (Con-Stamford St Mary's), in his first speech since stepping down as leader, told members of the full council: “County council colleagues, of which a number also sit on this council, are again talking about disbanding district councils to create a single unitary authority.

“This idea has so far been strongly rejected in 2017, but it looks like the debate may be coming around again.”

Coun Matthew Lee (17693247)
Coun Matthew Lee (17693247)

Lincolnshire County Council shelved plans in that year to hold a public referendum on a unitary authority on the same day as county council elections.

Some district council leaders at the time opposed the plans.

In his speech, Coun Lee indicated the reason he was stepping down, was due to disagreement about his vision for the authority.

Today's council meeting (17693397)
Today's council meeting (17693397)

“I have always been very clear that I see driving economic growth and investment here in South Kesteven as the answer.

“Given that I am stepping down, clearly some of my colleagues disagree.

“Other suggestions will no doubt be put forward in due course.”

Today's council meeting (17693479)
Today's council meeting (17693479)

Coun Lee told councillors it had been “a privilege” to lead the council for the past two years and said the district had “enormous potential”.

He praised the work the council had done including the new cinema, street cleaning, Lottery SK and Invest SK.

“Over the past two years, we have begun to be a council that does things. At the same time we have also been gearing up to take on some of the big challenges we are facing,” he said.

Today's council meeting (17693566)
Today's council meeting (17693566)

“I can honestly say I have put my heart and soul into leading this council. I’m honestly proud of what we have achieved,” he said.

During the meeting, 29-year-old Coun Kelham Cooke (Con-Casewick) was elected as leader of the council.

However, Lincolnshire County Councillor executive member Richard Davies was at the meeting, and denied Lincolnshire County Council was pushing for unitary councils, saying there was “no drive” for the move.

He said: "All local authorities should and could be working together but as a member of county council it came as a bit of a surprise to hear that.”

Coun Davies (Con- Grantham West) pointed to the recently announced partnership which will see North Lincolnshire, North East Lincolnshire and the county working closer together to provide “more efficient” services.

But he added a unitary authority at this time would “be like turkeys voting for Christmas”.

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