Solent mayor plans for Portsmouth and Southampton pushed back ‘until after local elections’

Mutiny Festival brought over �2m to the local economy Picture: Paul Windsor

Mutiny Festival brings £2.7m into Portsmouth economy

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AN announcement over plans for a Solent mayor to oversee spending in Portsmouth and Southampton has been put back until the summer.

But hopes remain high the position will still be created as part of efforts to secure more powers from the government to improve south Hampshire.

I am very pleased that the government has agreed the wording of a draft devolution deal for South Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. This position however is probably best described as the end of the beginning of the process.

Councillor Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council

Local leaders say they have been working with the Treasury on a Solent Combined Authority – taking in urban areas including Southampton – which an elected mayor would chair.

A cabinet of local council leaders would be formed to scrutinise the mayor’s strategy and use of government cash to improve matters such as transport and public health.

It is part of efforts to stop lots of local matters purely being decided from Whitehall.

Tory Portsmouth leader Donna Jones said: ‘We were hoping for an official announcement as part of the chancellor’s Budget speech but have now been advised the announcement will be made in June after the local elections.

‘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 government requires a directly-elected mayor to secure the substantial funding, and every member of the public would have a say on who that person was through a public election in May 2017.’

But Fareham Borough Council leader Cllr Sean Woodward says it is just the ‘end of the beginning’ of the proposed deal.

He said: ‘I’m pleased that the government has agreed the wording of a draft devolution deal for South 
Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

‘This position, however, is probably best described as the end of the beginning of the process.

‘The work over the last three weeks has arrived at a draft agreement.

‘It is now critical that the agreement is refined into a state that we can consult the public, gain the support of our partners and ultimately the agreement of all of the councils concerned.

‘If there is not such agreement and support then the deal will not proceed.

‘As well as providing critical funds for infrastructure to support both existing and new housing and jobs it is important that we have the power to be able to designate greenbelt to protect our countryside strategic gaps from development.’