Councils look to join up to create a ‘super’ Hampshire combined authority

Councillor Sean Woodward
Councillor Sean Woodward

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  • Idea would give Hampshire more power to make decisions at a local level
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COUNCILS across the county are looking to join up and create a combined authority in order to receive more powers from the government, similar to those given to Scotland, Wales and London.

The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Government Association met yesterday to talk about the idea and to decide boundaries.

Association vice-chairwoman Donna Jones said that all the councils agreed, including the unitary authorities of Southampton and Portsmouth, and the idea will now be discussed at a local level.

Cllr Jones, the leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘It’s all about bringing the power to our area. Hampshire is one of the biggest counties.

‘We pay more taxes than any other area across the UK and more than the entirety of Wales. We want to be able to use this money more effectively to arrange our own education, health and transport.’

If the idea was to go ahead, it could see Hampshire and the Isle of Wight create a combined authority that would make decisions on issues such as health, infrastructure, skills, jobs, the environment, and tourism, plus more, instead of them being made by central government – but it would not see any councils scrapped.

It would mean decisions could be tailored to the area’s needs. Some areas such as benefits, immigration and defence would remain as responsibilities for parliament.

Fareham’s council leader Sean Woodward put forward the motion to his council on Thursday evening and the topic will be debated at the next full council meeting.

Cllr Woodward said: ‘It is not about another set of elections or another tier of government. It is saying “what about England?”

‘Why should England remain as the most centralised bureaucracy in the western world, when there are powers being given to London, Scotland and Wales?

‘Hampshire has a population of two million people and a GDP bigger than some small countries. This is about seeking the power to make more decisions locally.’

He said the combined authority could work like the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire (PUSH), where representatives from each council meet to make decisions.

Gosport’s council leader Mark Hook agreed with idea and said he would also be putting the motion to his council.

He said: ‘Anything that devolves power to a local level is a good thing. I am fully supportive of it.’

Havant’s council leader Michael Cheshire said: ‘Havant believes in the devolution of power from central government and will work closely with the county council and other local authorities to achieve the desired objectives.’

Councils will hold meetings to debate the topic and the HIOWLGA will discuss the matter in July. If all councils agree, a letter will be sent to the government in the autumn.