FRESH trouble has emerged over the bid by Hampshire councils to secure more powers from the government after the leader of the county raised fears the deal could end in ‘disaster’.
Councillor Roy Perry has written to MPs with his concerns over the Treasury’s decision to pursue the formation of a Solent Combined Authority having control over housing numbers and spending on roads and schools.
I am asking for your support to help avert what I think would be little short of a disaster for the area, not just this great county, if a Solent proposal is pursued in this late and hurried manner.Councillor Roy Perry, leader of Hampshire County Council
He believes the best option is a Hampshire-wide authority taking in the Isle of Wight as he fears the Solent route would see the county council’s powers and responsibilities taken away.
But leaders say that because all local councils haven’t been able to vote in favour of an elected mayor to oversee the new authority – which the government says is a must as part of any deal – it just wants Solent authorities to join up and get its own mayor.
In his letter, Cllr Perry said: ‘The county council is an exceptionally-high performing, cost-effective and innovative local authority which is already supporting vital services within the Solent Combined Authority area.
‘A Solent Combined Authority would, we fear, fail to deliver the scale, competency and capacity needed to deliver significant productivity gains and sustain quality public services which must be at the heart of the government’s strategy for local government reform.
‘We certainly fail to see how this model would offer the solutions for the Isle of Wight, which are to be such an essential component to any local proposal.’
He added: ‘I am asking for your support to help avert what I think would be little short of a disaster for the area, not just this great county, if a Solent proposal is pursued in this late and hurried manner.’
It come after Solent leaders met the Treasury in London to talk more about the bid.
Addressing Cllr Perry’s concerns, Portsmouth leader Donna Jones said: ‘The county council’s position has been to pursue a Hampshire-wide combined authority including the Isle of Wight, but then made it very clear they never wanted an elected mayor.
‘That was an aspiration shared by leaders across Hampshire as it was too big of a geographical area for that to work.
‘But the government has made it clear that devolution would only be brought down to areas with an elected mayor.
‘There is not enough support for an elected mayor across Hampshire.’
Cllr Sean Woodward, Fareham leader, said: ‘Discussions will be ongoing over the next week between officers from the Solent councils and civil servants in the Treasury to determine what deal there might be.’