PLANS have been unveiled to replace Hampshire County Council with a new super authority following fears it will be undermined by any Solent devolution deal.
Hampshire leader, Cllr Roy Perry, says plans by leaders for the Solent to join up and have their own elected mayor would ‘split the county’ and add yet another layer of ‘administration’.
In light of the concerns, the county council commissioned a report into how services could be better provided at lower cost.
The independent dossier by Deloitte says the creation of a new unitary council, replacing the existing Hampshire county structure, would cut council tax for about 90 per cent of households, streamline services and deliver tens of millions of pounds of savings each year.
But it would mean the end of all district councils and their powers – which critics say would be ‘swallowed up’ by a ‘monolithic council.’
But backing the findings, Councillor Perry said: ‘One of the options under consideration is the creation of a new unitary ‘Hampshire Council’ which would replace both the county council and Hampshire’s 11 district councils – delivering lower council tax, more efficient services and clearer democratic accountability to Hampshire residents.’
A Hampshire unitary authority would be like those in Southampton and Portsmouth. As a single local authority it would carry out the full range of local government services for its area, encompassing all the duties and functions that are carried out in ‘two-tier’ areas with both district and county councils like Hampshire. A unitary council would combine the collection and disposal of household waste, whereas in a two-tier area the functions are split between the district and county.
Councillor Perry said: ‘I have worked hard to make the two-tier structure work, but the districts and cities have now come up with their separate proposals that will begin to divide the county immediately.
‘We are convinced that this would lead ultimately to unitary councils based on a perverse geography which will do little to enhance the economy of the area.’
It comes as regional leaders, excluding Hampshire’s, push ahead with plans to create a Solent combined authority with additional powers from the government to improve transport, public health and business prospects.
The combined authority would be ruled by a directly-elected mayor.
Cllr Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, is concerned by Hampshire’s plans for a new council.
He said: ‘I would totally oppose the creation of the unitary Hampshire. It would be taken decisions far too remotely, from the people who should be represented. This would suck all the powers up from all the councils into a monolithic council.’
Portsmouth council leader Donna Jones said she also had concerns.