The Solent Devolution deal, which could see a package of £900m extra funding over 30 years for the combined authorities of Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, hit another low on Wednesday 25 January as Council leaders and Hampshire and Isle of Wight MPs failed to agree a way forward for the controversial deal. The meeting was held after the new Conservative Leadership of the Isle of Wight, who took over from the Independents last week, had withdrawn their support for the Solent deal.
Isle of Wight Leader Cllr Dave Stewart said:
“It was clear and acknowledged at the meeting that the Solent Deal, in its current form, wouldn’t be going ahead. The arrangements that were being proposed meant it was possible for two of the three participants to out-vote the other, and our great concern was the Isle of Wight not being seen as a major player and we might have been out voted, and that’s just not right for the Island.”
Trouble for the beleaguered deal started when Hampshire County Council withdrew its support early last year, citing its reservations about a deal that would ‘split Hampshire in two’; the urban regions in the South and the more rural parts in the North. Also, Government’s requirement of an elected Mayor at the helm of a new combined authority met with difficulty in the Solent area.
Hampshire County Council Leader Cllr Roy Perry said:
“Anything that divides Hampshire is not going to go anywhere. The Government wants agreement. What would help generate the economy and improve the efficiency of services has to be countywide.”
Cllr Simon Letts, Leader of Southampton City Council and a supporter of the Solent deal, expressed his disappointment with the outcome of the meeting.
He said: “The Solent area has been deprived of transport investment in particular for decades and a Solent authority was one way of putting this right. Rejection of the deal would mean all the money will go to areas like Greater Manchester where mature political leadership has delivered a shared vision.”
The final decision lies with Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid MP.