New position would need to beat local self-interest

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Creating any role that calls for power-sharing, or having control over any aspect of both Portsmouth and Southampton, is going to prove controversial.

And so it has already proved with news that the chancellor, George Osborne, is expected to announce just such a role in tomorrow’s Budget.

The so-called Solent mayor would not take away any powers from existing councils in south Hampshire. They would instead oversee spending on a range of matters that are currently controlled from central government.

Of course there are many questions that will need to be answered before any such role can be successfully implemented.

But please can we put aside the childish name-calling between Portsmouth and Southampton? Yes, many of us are aware of the historical background to the unpleasant epithets. But historical is exactly what this is and we should have long since moved beyond that.

To prevent this from being a waste of money, the mayor will need to be able to make a difference – and be allowed to make a difference. And as this is to be an elected role, it needs to be something more than just another feather in the cap of a career politician.

Overcoming understandable self-interest from the various councils will also prove tough.

However, as we saw with the police and crime commissioner elections where voter turnouts were pitifully low, engaging public interest in these new roles is difficult.

We already have the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire (PUSH), which represents 12 councils. How PUSH will fit into the new model is yet to be explained.

There is certainly potential here, but much that needs to be ironed out first.