Fareham councillors clash over plans for council restructure

TWO councillors have become embroiled in a war of words over plans to decide how Hampshire should be governed in the future.

Friday, 10th June 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 13th June 2016, 12:00 pm
Ukip councillor Chris Wood

Ukip’s Councillor Chris Wood, who represents Crofton on Hampshire County Council and Stubbington for Fareham, has claimed the county’s plan to create a unitary authority that has powers over areas outside of Portsmouth and Southampton would be ‘a fantastic way of streamlining services’.

But Tory councillor Sean Woodward, Fareham Borough Council’s executive leader, says Cllr Wood is ‘confused’ by the plans and that Hampshire would be too large to accommodate a unitary authority should there be devolved powers from central government.

Cllr Wood said: ‘This proposal is a hugely-positive step in removing a bloated, confusing and unnecessary local bureaucracy with a leaner, more efficient and customer-focused council.

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‘The system is bloated and in need of serious reform.’

Meanwhile, Cllr Woodward, who also represents Sarisbury for the county, backs the Solent councils’ plan to form a combined authority that would see the creation of a board with a mayor that has government money to spend.

He said in response: ‘Cllr Wood is clearly getting himself confused.

‘A unitary authority would see a one-size-fits-all approach for all services.

‘Hampshire is far too big a county to have one single authority in charge of nearly two million people.’

Cllr Wood added that the unitary authority option would ‘vastly simplify’ Hampshire’s government structure as it would see around 700 borough and district councillors removed.

In response, Cllr Woodward said: ‘I agree, it would be a simpler structure but it would also be a one-size-fits-all approach. A combined authority would bring in billions to south Hampshire through infrastructure investment, more services and control over our motorways. 
 ‘A unitary authority would strip us of these powers.’

The spat comes after the county’s cabinet assessed a report by consultants Deloitte at a meeting on Monday.

The dossier claimed that over £40m a year could be saved if Hampshire adopted a unitary authority structure.