Delays to Hampshire's county deal plans as local councils ask for 'more time' to flesh out proposals

PROPOSALS for a Hampshire-wide devolution deal with the government are still being debated.

Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 3:49 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 3:49 pm

Hampshire County Council leader, Councillor Rob Humby, had hoped to present his cabinet with Hampshire's county deal prospectus at today’s meeting (June 21).

However, discussions are still taking place with district and city councils about what the proposals should entail.

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Hampshire County Council. Picture: David George

The county deal, as it has been termed, would see devolved powers passed down from central government to local authorities, and a draft prospectus was drawn up in December last year.

Addressing the cabinet, Cllr Humby said: ‘We met previously with the district leaders to discuss the proposals we would include in the county deal.

‘They have requested a bit more time and so we're pushing it back to July.

‘It still leaves us in a very good position, thanks to the work done by my predecessor Cllr Keith Mans. If the opportunity to open discussions with the government is brought forward, we will be ready for them.’

The new draft includes changes to plans for sector growth, integrated transport and net-zero carbon emission strategies.

In February, the government published its levelling-up white paper, which outlined plans to 'extend, deepen and simplify' devolution across the country.

One wave of deals is already being lined up by the government, with Cornwall, Durham, Suffolk, Leicestershire and more set to benefit first.

There is a strong belief among politicians that this county deal could offset some of the damage that would be caused by a recession, which chief executive Carolyn Williamson believes could hit the UK by the end of this year.

She said: 'A county deal has the potential to strengthen economic recovery across Hampshire as a whole and deliver major strategic economic initiatives and programmes.

'This would be achieved through securing substantial new functions, powers, and resources to enhance place-based leadership at regional, sub-regional and local levels for the benefit of local residents, including leveraging significant investment funding from government and the private sector.

'The post-Covid focus for the county council is clearly and significantly focussed upon economic recovery, this includes the development of an ambitious county deal prospectus as a negotiating position with government.'