Solent combined authority money won't come close to solving M27 congestion warns Hampshire leader

THE leader of Hampshire County Council fears the promise of £30m a year under the Solent devolution plan is nowhere near enough if major problems on the M27 are to be finally resolved.

Tuesday, 1st November 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 4:38 pm
Solent leaders sign a letter as part of the bid to become a combined authority, from left, Southampton City Council leader Simon Letts, Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones and Isle of Wight council leader Jonathan Bacon

Councillor Roy Perry says he has been told by the county authority’s highways boss that it could cost up to £2bn to ensure the motorway is not crippled by congestion.

And the senior Tory warned that’s before the proposed Solent combined authority – which would see the Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight and Southampton councils link up and have control of government funds – looks to pay out for more schools, homes, and create more space for businesses.

Cllr Perry is concerned how much money individual areas could get.

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Cllr Roy Perry

Councils have been told by the government that the Solent Combined Authority would get £30m a year over the next 30 years for big improvements, amounting to £900m.

Cllr Perry said: ‘The councils keep talking about getting £30m a year over 30 years, then they multiply it a bit and the figure come in at just under £1bn.

‘Is that just for the bits of Hampshire that are included in the authority or is that the same figure for the whole of Hampshire? It’s unclear.

‘I have been told that to get the M27 to deal with congestion, it would take £2bn. So the money over the next 30 years doesn’t get the M27 sorted out. It’s not the huge sum of money that some might think. I am not dazzled by this offer of £30m a year.

Cllr Roy Perry

‘Sat alongside the county council’s budget, it’s a marginal amount of money.’

Cllr Perry added: ‘You can offer money on one hand, and then one way of balancing the books is taking it away from somewhere else.’

Much of the estimated M27 cost is based on the transformation of the M27 network into a ‘smart motorway’ – with extra lanes and electronic information telling drivers what speed to drive at, if lanes are blocked 
or closed and about incidents ahead.

The concerns come after Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight and Southampton formally presented their offer to the government to form a Solent authority, which would be ruled by an elected mayor.

Local government secretary Sajid Javid will now decide whether the plans should go ahead.

It has been met with controversy as only 743 residents and businesses in Portsmouth had their say while it was out for consultation – equivalent to just 0.5 per cent of the population.

And the mayor could command a salary of around £80,000 a year.

Hampshire County Council is opposed to the Solent plan because of its intention to have a mayor.

However, Cllr Perry says he has not ruled out joining up – and he’s due to meet Solent leaders to see if a way forward can be found.