A SENIOR Tory’s role as leader of Hampshire County Council has been called into question after he attacked ‘underachieving’ Solent councils.
Cllr Roy Perry was criticised after he said south Hampshire can’t be trusted with running the county’s economy – as the councils are ‘poor, underperforming and not living up to expectations’.
Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones said Cllr Perry should consider resigning.
She initially praised Cllr Perry, but now says: ‘Roy Perry’s remarks about south Hampshire are misguided, incorrect and demonstrate he is completely out of touch and no longer up to the job.
‘His disparaging comments about the south of the county being poor have created a massive backlash, with many residents being deeply offended.
‘I am shocked by his offensive comments. The key point that Cllr Perry has conveniently overlooked is that over 50 per cent of the south Hampshire Solent area is administered by Hampshire County Council, so it is a bit rich him claiming south Hampshire cannot be trusted with overseeing spending when he is responsible for over half of the current spending.’
It comes as Solent councils seek to form a board with a mayor that has government money to spend.
The county, though, wants to create a new unitary authority that has power over areas outside of Portsmouth and Southampton.
But Cllr Mike Cheshire, Havant leader, said: ‘There is a lot of confusion, in terms of what is combined authority and what is unitary.’
Responding, Cllr Perry said: ‘The facts speak for themselves, for example southern Hampshire has higher unemployment than the rest of Hampshire; and higher levels of deprivation which impacts the lives of people in the area.
‘In his comment to The News, Councillor Sean Woodward also recognised the fact that, as a whole, south Hampshire does under-perform. If in making this point too forcefully I have offended anyone, then of course I apologise – I was not in any way criticising councils or residents in south Hampshire, who all work hard to raise the prosperity of the area.
‘However, if we are to address the problems faced by residents I think we have to face up to the reality that on many measures the south Hampshire economy is not performing as well as other areas.’
Access to jobs and markets, transport connections and the skills of the local workforce all need to be improved.’