Anger as government ditches Solent devolution bid

Former leaders signed the deal when in power in October 2016. Pictured: Councillor Simon Letts, leader of Southampton City Council , Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council and Councillor Jonathan Bacon, leader of Isle of Wight Council sign the letter for the devolution application.
Former leaders signed the deal when in power in October 2016. Pictured: Councillor Simon Letts, leader of Southampton City Council , Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council and Councillor Jonathan Bacon, leader of Isle of Wight Council sign the letter for the devolution application.

LEADERS across the area have voiced their frustration after learning government has refused a bid to make a super council covering the Solent area.

Angry council leaders issued statements today revealing they were not told directly – but instead learnt of the bid’s fate from a letter to Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan from Jake Berry, minister for the Northern Powerhouse and local growth.

The bid would have seen £900m investment from government over 30 years. The bidding councils were the Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southampton.

As reported, the combined authority was declared ‘highly unlikely’ by then Portsmouth council leader Donna Jones in 2017.

READ MORE: Solent devolution deal ‘highly unlikely’, confirms leader 

Portsmouth City Council today issued a statement on the apparent ditching of the bid. It said government subsequently told the authority a letter from prime minister Theresa May to then council leader Donna Jones had notified her of the bid’s failure.

In a statement current leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘It is beyond disappointing that the government would dismiss something that so much work has gone into without even the courtesy of notifying the three councils that submitted it.

‘We have heard the reason is because MPs in other parts of Hampshire didn't support the bid and without a majority the government couldn't risk upsetting them.

‘Government is prioritising the opinions of those few individuals over the views of more than 2,500 local people who responded to the consultation on the plans and showed clear support.’

READ MORE: The Solent devolution bid inside story revealed through fractious emails

Cllr Mark Hook leads Gosport Borough Council. While not part of the 2016 bid, he had hoped the comibned authority would have benefitted the borough.

In a statement he said: ‘Devolution has the potential to bring real tangible benefits to the Solent region including Gosport and its residents.

‘It's disappointing that government has ended this process and Gosport Borough Council hasn't even had a deal on the table to consider being part of and been denied the opportunity to deliver the economic boost our town deserves and needs.’

In a statement Mr Morgan added: ‘I was very disappointed to hear the devolution plans were no longer being considered and even more disappointed that the government hadn't even told the councils.

‘This scrapping of our bid without notification is a kick in the teeth for Portsmouth and means our city missing out on millions in much-needed funding.’