Leaders support plan to combine Portsmouth and Southampton authorities

Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council
Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council
Sir Vince Cable is the new leader of the Liberal Democrats

Sir Vince Cable is new Liberal Democrats leader

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In a joint statement released last night, Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council and Cllr Simon Letts of Southampton City Council said the two authorities are ‘very supportive’ of the opportunity that a combined authority would offer the economic development of the Solent area.

The move could lead to an elected mayor for the Solent region and more powers from Westminster to control how money is spent here.

The two councils will now hold talks with other neighbouring councils, the Solent Local Enterprise Partnerships, and MPs to established what can happen.

Earlier this month, Cllr Jones said she did not envisage any alliance between Portsmouth and Southampton, and instead thought councils should stay as they are and work together to obtain more powers from the government.

At the time, she said: ‘I don’t envisage necessarily a collaboration between Portsmouth and Southampton, but we need to be talking about the wider authority agenda.’

But speaking to The News last night, Cllr Jones said she had always been supportive of the idea of a combined authority.

‘I think it is a very good idea and has always been my plan,’ she said.

‘There was an opportunity after the Scottish referendum for decentralisation.’

Cllr Jones explained the idea would keep local and unitary authorities like Portsmouth City Council in place, but would have more powers over where money is spent.

She said: ‘I think this will be agreed within the next six months and will be implemented within about a year and a half.’

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the Lib Dem group, said: ‘More powers from Whitehall for southern Hampshire would be good, but local people need a guarantee that if they have views in their own city on things like congestion charging, selling off the council housing stock or fracking that these are respected.’