PLANS to unite councils to create a ‘southern powerhouse’ have taken another step forward – and the end result could see the new body taking over the running of motorways in the region.
The idea is to create a super authority combining authorities in Portsmouth, Southampton, Hampshire and borough councils across the county which would see powers given to it from the government, similar to devolved powers in Scotland.
Fareham borough councillors debated the plan at a full council meeting on Thursday.
Leader Sean Woodward backed the idea, saying it would not create an extra layer of authority, but would enable decisions normally made by Whitehall to be made locally.
Cllr Woodward said: ‘It is not a local government reorganisation, it is not an attempt to create unitary councils in the county of Hampshire and it is not local councils giving their responsibilty to another body.
‘It is a recognition at long last by a government that this devolution debate should not be about giving more power to the Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish but it is “what about the English?” and what powers should be devolved locally to carry out services with a degree of control over how they are delivered.’
He said that one example could be the combined authority taking over the running of the M27 from Highways England.
This would allow it to push forward improvement plans, such as those to junctions that will serve new town Welborne, more easily.
It could also see the hard shoulder turned into an extra lane during peak hours to alleviate traffic congestion.
A steering group has been created by The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Government Association, which contains leaders of Portsmouth, Southampton and Hampshire authorities, plus Cllr Woodward representing the southern part of Hampshire and Councillor Keith House, the leader of Eastleigh council, representing the north.
If all councils agree, they will write to the government by August 7, requesting new powers.