Councils could join forces to get more devolved powers

Portsmouth City Council's Civic Offices
Portsmouth City Council's Civic Offices
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COUNCILS across the region could combine to create super authorities.

The leaders of Portsmouth, Hampshire, West Sussex and Southampton councils are in discussions about joining forces to take advantage of government proposals to allow them more control over planning, highways, further education and health.

It follows the government’s announcement that the Greater Manchester Combined Authority is to receive greater powers – including control of health services.

Councillor Roy Perry, leader of Hampshire County Council, said he believes the decentralisation of power would be a huge boost to the local economy.

He said: ‘It’s a fast-moving situation.

‘As the government proceeds to consider devolution I have urged them not to take the people of the south for granted.

‘The government is right to want to devolve powers. But we are certainly not talking about any changes to the existing powers of local authorities and city councils, or taking any powers away.

‘There will be no reorganisation – that would cost millions of pounds and take years.

‘We’re simply saying additional powers could be granted to a combined authority.

‘We could come together and take on more control over issues like further education.’

Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones is in favour of devolution, but prefers a super Solent model made up of nearby city, district and borough councils, rather than a county-wide.

She said: ‘I welcome the chancellor’s announcement about city-wide devolution’.

She added: ‘I’ve spoken to a number of council leaders across Hampshire and I’m working closely with Cllr Simon Letts, leader of Southampton City Council, on what the best model for the Solent would be.

‘As leader of Portsmouth City Council my main hope and aspiration is that we get greater control over matters affecting planning, housing numbers, transport improvements, infrastructure and the health agenda.

‘We will be working with Hampshire but Portsmouth and Southampton will be leading this.’

The south contributes more to the national economy than Scotland – where devolution began – and Greater Manchester.

The south east’s gross value added – a measure of the value of goods and services produced in an area – is £133bn, second only to London.

West Sussex County Council has commissioned research into the benefits that would follow for communities in the south east if 
county councils were given greater autonomy by the government.

Leader Louise Goldsmith said: ‘We are acutely aware that we need to nurture our vibrant economy which continues to be the economic powerhouse for the south east.’