Devolution Joint Statement

From Leaders

Page last updated at 17 May 2016 at 11:30

Joint media statement from the Leaders of East Hampshire District Council, Eastleigh Borough Council, Fareham Borough Council, Gosport Borough Council, Havant Borough Council, Portsmouth City Council and Southampton City Council. 

Hampshire County Council has announced it plans to consult on a number of options for local government reorganisation, including creating a county-wide Hampshire Council that would serve a vast population of 2 million people and encompass the existing county council, three unitary councils and 11 districts. The options are set out in a report commissioned by the county council from consultants, Deloitte. 

The above councils in the Solent area want to place on record their concerns that the document is more concerned with looking in detail at how local government organises itself, rather than focusing on how councils can work together to provide better and more efficient services for local people. 

This proposal amounts to localism in reverse. It exceeds the Government's own standards for scale and manageability, is a clear threat to town and parish councils and would further distance our populations from the services they and their communities rely on. 

Rather than creating a large and unwieldy council for the whole county area we would prefer to look at bringing existing councils together to work closely to improve outcomes for local people and bring extra powers and resources for the area - as being explored in plans for both the Solent and Heart of Hampshire combined authorities (which between them cover the whole of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight). 

It is expected that government would give a Solent Combined Authority control of approximately £30m of additional funding per year to improve the infrastructure in South Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and will allow decisions to be made locally rather than in Westminster. The Combined Authority would also keep all business rates generated in the area, approximately £400m, and leave the current system of government funding for local councils, meaning the area would have better control of its own financial future. 

A combined authority would have responsibility for working with partners to increase business productivity; create better jobs and more jobs; and adult education and training. Bringing these responsibilities together in the Solent area will simplify and strengthen support for business growth and innovation as well as enabling a focus on training in skills businesses want people to have, therefore people get jobs, businesses prosper and the whole of South Hampshire & the Isle of Wight becomes better off. 

It would control a dedicated transport budget, franchised bus services and the network of strategic local authority roads. 

It is also anticipated that once the combined authority is in place it would be able to demonstrate its successes and negotiate with government to agree further powers and opportunities to be devolved, potentially in areas such as health and criminal justice, as the Greater Manchester Combined Authority has done. Pursuing the options proposed by Hampshire County Council will put all of this in jeopardy. 

Ferris Cowper - Leader, East Hampshire District Council
Keith House - Leader, Eastleigh Borough Council
Sean Woodward - Leader, Fareham Borough Council
Mark Hook - Leader, Gosport Borough Council  
Michael Cheshire - Leader, Havant Borough Council
Donna Jones - Leader, Portsmouth City Council
Simon Letts - Leader, Southampton City Council