Hampshire County Council submits bid for inclusion in 'county deals' pilot
THE chance to get more devolved powers in Hampshire has been described as a 'once-in-a-generation opportunity'.
Last month, prime minister Boris Johnson announced plans for new 'county deals' to be introduced, giving upper-tier and unitary authorities the same powers as metro mayors.
Now, Hampshire County Council has put in a formal bid to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to be considered for a pilot of this scheme.
Leader of Hampshire County Council, Cllr Keith Mans, said: 'They [county deals] aim to deliver the best possible deal for local residents at a local level and give places the tools they need to transform and pilot new ideas, create more jobs, drive growth in the economy, improve public services, boost transport, infrastructure and housing, and tackle climate change – the list goes on.
'This is clearly a very exciting, once-in-a-generation opportunity for Hampshire and the wider geographic and economic area, to build on our collective strengths and boost Hampshire as a whole, to help benefit the lives and opportunities of our residents.
'By expressing our interest now, this commits us to nothing at this stage, but it’s an opportunity we must pursue at pace, for the good of the people of Hampshire. We now wait to hear from government, their response.'
The government has advertised these county deals as being flexible arrangements, which could vary from council to council.
Speaking at the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) in Coventry, Mr Johnson said the focus will be on giving local authorities everything they need to drive economic growth and improve public services.
Cllr Mans said the county council is already making preparations for a pilot scheme.
'We will be discussing with our borough and district partners their priorities should the government’s response be a positive one,' he said.
'We will also be engaging with our neighbouring local authorities in a similar way.'
A government white paper outlining more details is due to be published later this year.
Until then, it is unknown exactly how the county deals will impact councils, but Cllr Mans is optimistic.
He said: 'At this point, it’s far too early to speculate the detail of what a county deal for Hampshire might involve.
'In expressing our interest in being an early pilot for a county deal, it commits us to nothing at this stage.
'We believe this is an opportunity we must pursue at pace, for the good of the residents of Hampshire.'