Portsmouth council leader calls on residents to share views on Solent’s future of government

Council leaders Jonathan Bacon, Donna Jones and Simon Letts
Council leaders Jonathan Bacon, Donna Jones and Simon Letts
From left, Charlotte Tipping from World Vision HQ, organiser of the lunch Sue Tinney, chef Sam Kemp, Alan Mak MP and Amy Johnson from the World Vision Advocacy Team 

Picture:  Malcolm Wells (170922-2862)

Havant community gathers to support malnourished children in Africa

  • Portsmouth, Southampton and Isle of Wight leaders call for residents to share views
  • Solent Combined Authority would bring in £900m deal from the Treasury
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Have your say

PORTSMOUTH residents are being urged by the city council’s leader to have their say on plans that would see a ‘Solent cabinet’ formed.

Councillor Donna Jones, was flanked by Southampton City Council leader Councillor Simon Letts and Isle of Wight Council leader Councillor Jonathan Bacon yesterday as they outlined their plans to bring forward the Solent Combined Authority.

An aerial view of the Solent  Picture: Shaun Roster

An aerial view of the Solent Picture: Shaun Roster

Following a year of discussions between the respective councils and the Treasury, the three leaders called on residents to air their thoughts on proposals that would also see a elected mayor for the Solent.

A combined authority would see the leaders of the respective councils sit in a ‘cabinet’ where they would be responsible for overseeing strategic planning for the three areas, such as bringing forward transport infrastructure and allocating areas for housing.

Cllr Jones said: ‘I really want the people of Portsmouth to share their thoughts on this proposal.

‘These proposals really excite me and we want to hear from residents, from businesses, anyone that has any kind of interest in how the Solent area is run.

It is important that they have their say on this as with a combined authority, we can bring in more jobs, affordable housing and the necessary improvements to our infrastructure

Councillor Donna Jones

‘It is important that they have their say on this as with a combined authority, we can bring in more jobs, affordable housing and the necessary improvements to our infrastructure.’

Cllr Letts said: ‘We want to take control of resources that would be spent in Whitehall.

‘This is about moving the Solent area forward. Southampton and Portsmouth have a long and bitter rivalry on a number of levels but we think we can do better by working together to sell the area to the rest of Europe and to the world.’

Cllr Bacon backed his partners, stating: ‘I cannot remember a time in the last 30 years that the three councils have worked more closely together than we have in the last year on these proposals.

The councils have secured a draft 30-year deal with the Treasury which would see the combined authority handed £30m a year if the tier of government was set up.

If the proposals are accepted by the respective councils, then the authority could be in place by next spring.

An election on the mayor could take next summer or the year after.

In the interim, each of the leaders will take over the role on a rolling period every six months.

An elected mayor was included as part of the deal that the councils made with the Treasury.

Cllr Jones says that originally she was not ‘in favour’ of the plans due to the fact that they included an elected mayor but she has since changed her mind.

She said: ‘I was not in favour of it but the government needs to go to an individual if something goes wrong, not a table of eight or nine people.

‘In the end, it was a pill that I could swallow.’

The trio denied that the plans would add another element of ‘government bureaucracy’ to the Solent area.

Cllr Bacon said: ‘Nothing will change with the councils, they will be run exactly the same way, but we will have more powers from Westminster.

Borough and district councils in Fareham, Gosport, Eastleigh and Havant had previously come out in support of the plans.

If the plans are implemented, then the respective councils would be asked to join the combined authority.

The councils would need to hold a public consultation with their residents and would need the backing of the council before joining.

Hampshire County Council, who are seeking to create a super unitary authority for the whole of the county, are opposed to the plans.

However, Cllr Jones said their view could change. She added: ‘If the plans are approved, I would be very surprised if they didn’t want a seat at the table.’

HOW CAN YOU HAVE YOUR SAY?

TO give your thoughts on the proposals head to solentdeal.co.uk.

Click on ‘consultation’ and you will then begin the survey.

Residents will be asked where they live (either Portsmouth, Southampton, Isle of Wight or other) and what their interest is.

The survey then explains the role of a combined authority, what the deal will do for the areas, how will it work and lists four options for the deal.

Firstly, the form and structure of government remains the same as it is, meaning that no combined authority is created.

Secondly, a joint committee would be established that would incorporate all three councils and the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership.

The meetings would all be public and the committee would not be able to hold any funds and could only make a handful of decisions without individual authorisation by constituent members.

The third option, is to establish an Economic Prosperity Board.

This is a formal, legally constituted body that has no borrowing powers but is supported by legislation and can hold powers and funding on behalf of constituent councils and central government.

Finally, is the option for a Mayoral Combined Authority.

It would be able to hold budgets, employ staff, enter into contracts and act as a strategic pillar for the councils in the area.

This is the preferred option of the three councils.

Residents will be asked whether they agree with the preferred option, if they agree with the councils working together and if they have any comments on the overall proposals.

WHAT EXACTLY WILL A COMBINE SOLENT AUTHORITY DO?

The Solent Combined Authority would see the leaders of Portsmouth City Council, Southampton City Council and Isle of Wight Council sit in a ‘cabinet’ and provide a strategic base for funding across the three areas.

They will allocate areas to provide funding for infrastructure and highlight certain areas to deal with housing demand.

HOW IS IT DIFFERENT TO THE CURRENT SYSTEM?

Currently, Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight all have their own councils to govern the respective areas.

This would not change. The only difference would be that a Combined Authority would be able to bring in further funding and oversee strategies for all three areas.

They would work closely, meet regularly and highlight key areas across the three places where investment and improvements are needed.

HOW MUCH MONEY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?

The councils have negotiated a deal with the Treasury that would see a combined authority receive £30m every year over the course of 30 years.

This is £900m in total and would be used to fund infrastructure, transport and housing across all three areas.

Portsmouth City Council’s leader Councillor Donna Jones said that the combined authority would look for around £1.5bn over the next thirty years in funding (including the £900m).

WHO WOULD LEAD IT?

If the public backs the proposals, it will be led by a directly elected mayor, who would chair a cabinet made up of the leaders of each of the councils involved.

If it is approved, it would be led on a rolling six-month basis by one of the council’s leaders until a mayor was elected.

This could take place next summer or in the summer of 2018.

WHO ELSE COULD JOIN?

In addition to Portsmouth City Council, Southampton City Council, Isle of Wight Council, the borough councils of south Hampshire have also expressed an interest in the proposals.

These are Fareham Borough Council, Havant Borough Council, Gosport Borough Council, East Hampshire Borough Council and Eastleigh Borough Council.

WHAT’S THE POINT?

The council’s say that it’s all about making sure local decision making takes place at a local level.

The UK has one of the most centralised systems of government in the world but if this plan goes ahead, this would move certain powers away from Westminster so that locally elected officials could make decisions on them.

The councils have looked at examples in the north of England such as the Greater Manchester Combined Authority for examples on how the system would work.

WHAT POWERS COULD IT HAVE?

The draft deal for the combined authority includes the following powers and responsibilities;

- Keeping all business rates generated in the area and leaving the current system of government funding for local councils.

- Power to create a spatial plan.

- Increase productivity and create more jobs and better jobs by simplifying and strengthening support for business growth, innovation, global trade and investment.

- Control of the budget for adult education and training in the area, enabling a focus on the skills businesses want people to have.

- Delivering new homes for the area.

- Control of a dedicated transport budget, franchised bus services.

- Innovative and integrated approaches to public service reform, including health.

WHEN COULD IT BE BROUGHT FORWARD?

If residents and businesses support the proposals then a formal bid could be put to government this autumn with a Solent Combined Authority in place as early as next Spring.

WHAT DO I DO NOW?

To comment on the proposals, all you need to do is head to www.solentdeal.co.uk and take part in the consultation.

You can comment up until September 18.

South Hampshire’s borough and district councils hit out at county council’s consultation

WHILE Portsmouth, Southampton and Isle of Wight’s councils plan to develop their own ‘cabinet’, Hampshire County Council are looking to create a super unitary authority for the whole of Hampshire.

Their plans would see the county’s borough and district councils abolished.

However, the borough and district councils, which are Fareham, Gosport, Havant, East Hampshire and Eastleigh, hit back at the county council’s with a strongly-worded joint statement on Monday.

They claim they were not consulted ahead of the county council launching their consultation into the plans, which launches today.

Councillor Michael Cheshire, leader of Havant Borough Council said: ‘There was supposed to be some consultation between the county council and Hampshire boroughs and districts.

‘This consultation did not happen and Havant certainly had not signed up to or agreed to the context of this document.

‘The information is presented in a long and confusing way.

‘It has nothing to do with the devolution of power, it’s all about the centralising of power to Hampshire County Council.

The consultation, which can be found at hants.gov.uk, asks residents for their thoughts on combined authorities and elected mayors.