Council leaders demand more involvement in Hampshire's 'county deal'

COUNCIL leaders have voiced their concern about a lack of involvement in a new government deal for Hampshire.

Friday, 15th October 2021, 3:44 pm

In July this year, prime minister Boris Johnson announced new ‘county deals’ which would devolve more powers to councils.

Now, Hampshire County Council has published a report outlining some of the proposed cornerstones of this deal - with a particular focus on improving transport links and supporting the county's greater-than-average elderly population with help for the social care sector.

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The county council says every town and city will benefit from the deal. Picture: Ryan Atfield

The prospectus document sets out a pan-Hampshire deal that encompasses all 11 district and borough councils, plus Portsmouth and Southampton city councils and the Isle of Wight Council.

County council leader, Cllr Keith Mans, said: 'We believe that local people and local areas are best-placed to shape their communities, and make decisions about the things that matter to each and every one of us in the pan-Hampshire area - whether it’s improving the daily commute to work by road, rail or on foot; creating more jobs and skills, and boosting our local economic recovery post Covid-19; building new homes and good schools; and working together to tackle the climate change emergency.

‘We now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring more of this power to the people and places of pan-Hampshire, through government’s offer of a county deal.’

The report also outlined how government funding could be streamlined to come into one single cash injection, rather than being ringfenced for different departments.

This would give councils the power to spend the money as they see fit.

Meetings are set to be held between the Hampshire councils, giving council leaders and chief executives the chance to have their say.

But local council leaders say they haven't been significantly involved in the process so far, and are calling for equal footing to secure the best deal.

Leader of Gosport Borough Council, Cllr Graham Burgess, said: 'We need the opportunity to sit down collectively and have an open discussion about it, before any further engagement takes place.

‘If you look at Hampshire, the needs of Gosport - which is 72 per cent built on - will be very different to those of a rural district like Winchester, so it's critical we get that balance right.’

Portsmouth City Council leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, added: 'At the moment it's a county council bid, not a county bid, so it needs to change quite a lot.

'There's a lot of interest in issues like housing and social care, but if we're going to commit to this it's got to be on equal terms.'

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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