Solent devolution money is ‘in the court of the government’

Clockwise from top left: Cowplain Village Practice, Queens Road Surgery in Portsmouth and Lee-on-the-Solent Medical Centre. Pictures: Google Maps

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A COUNCIL leader says she still wants to work with other authorities in the area to try and get extra cash out of the government.

The fate of the Solent Combined Authority – a joint venture between Portsmouth and Southampton city councils and the Isle Of Wight – still rests in the hands of the government, but appears less and less likely to get the go-ahead.

Without that infrastructure investment, I don’t know what we’re going to do

Councillor Donna Jones

Donna Jones, the leader of Portsmouth’s council says the plan, if agreed, would provide the area with £900m over the next 30 years to improve transport in the area.

She says the ball is the government’s court to provide the cash.

At a Portsmouth full council meeting, Cllr Jones revealed she met leaders from Gosport, Havant and Fareham borough councils and East Hampshire District Council in January last year.

She said they all rejected having an elected mayor across all councils as it would mean ‘losing the nucleus of our own area’.

Cllr Jones told the chamber: ‘It has been made abundantly clear that with the new industrial strategy, areas that have elected mayors or combined authorities or devolution are going to get more money.

‘And at the moment we are losing out, and that is a real worry.

Cllr Jones told The News after the meeting she would accept a super-unitary authority – all local councils combining – only if it was part of a devolution deal.

She added that if there is not any news after the Hampshire County Council elections in May, she would go back to the drawing board.

Cllr Jones said: ‘Without that infrastructure investment, I don’t know what we’re going to do.

‘We have dire train links between London, there hasn’t been proper investment in the M27 since it joined the M3.

‘We are thinking about how to get people around the city.

‘And Gosport and Fareham are suffering because of the time it takes to get around.’

Cllr Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham, said: ‘What I want is a devolution deal.

‘I do not want to see south Hampshire lose out on almost £1bn and that is where we are at currently. We have a deficit in infrastructure and the money we would get could plug that gap.’