18th May 2016
The Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Roy Perry has commissioned a report on the future of local Government in Hampshire. This is due to the government supporting a ‘devolution revolution’, which aims to see political power being exercised as locally as possible. The new report offers a series of radical proposals for reform of the way Hampshire is governed. Councillor Perry has commissioned the report in response to a push by many district authorities in Hampshire to combine existing authorities, laid out in the ‘Heart of Hampshire and ‘Solent City’ proposals.
The Southampton and Portsmouth district councils have been pushing hard for the establishment of ‘Solent City’ which would encompass Southampton, Portsmouth, Eastleigh, Fareham, Gosport, Havant and East Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Other Hampshire districts councils are proposing a ‘Heart of Hampshire’ scheme, which would encompass Basingstoke and Deane, Hart, Rushmore, Winchester, Test Valley, and the New Forest.
The report commissioned by Hampshire County Council proposes a number of options; a unitary authority for all of Hampshire, a unitary authority that excludes Southampton and Portsmouth, and a series of combined authority proposals.
Councillor Perry criticised the proposals for the ‘Heart of Hampshire’ and ‘Solent City’ schemes, saying that they break up Hampshire with little regard for history, geography, economics, policing, the Fire Service, NHS services and the Local Enterprise Partnership. He Said, “Unfortunately these proposals devolve very few powers down from central government but would transfer, and therefore split, some of the county’s key services such as highways and transport. They don’t bring greater clarity or efficiencies. They add a new layer of local government and additional costs and will inevitably disrupt countywide services.”
He praised the unitary authority idea pointing out that it is projected to save £40 million per year, and lead to reduced council tax bills for residents, as well as devolving power down to a local level. The unitary authority idea would operate like the unitary authorities already in place in Southampton and Portsmouth, which would carry out the entire range of local government services unlike the present ‘two tier’ system, and deliver a more ‘joined up’ approach to local government. The current set up has produced problems when vital services are split between local and district councils. This is especially problematic with the waste services, which at present are split between waste collection managed by the district council, and waste disposal which is managed by the county council.
Councillor Perry announced that before any radical changes occur to local government they must be endorsed via a public consultation. He said “I will not be endorsing the current ‘Solent City’ and ‘Heart of Hampshire’ proposals unless and until the people of Hampshire tell me that is what they want.”
However, the Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Donna Jones spoke up in favour of the ‘Solent City’ plan saying, “This is great news for the local area as it means more money will be spent in the Solent region improving roads and infrastructure for local people.” In support of the government’s plan for directly elected Mayor’s Council Leader Jones said, “securing tens of millions of pounds each year for our towns and cities will be one of the biggest investments the government has made in this area in years.” The decision on whether to create a devolved Solent authority will be made in June.