Solent devolution deal '˜highly unlikely', confirms leader

A £900M devolution deal for the Solent region '˜has been lost', according to a city council leader.

Friday, 27th January 2017, 6:00 am
Southampton City Council leader Simon Letts, Portsmouth's leader Donna Jones and Councillor Jonathan Bacon, the former leader of Isle of Wight Council signing the application for the Solent Combined Authority last year

Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council said that the proposed Solent Combined Authority (SCA) that would have seen the Portsmouth authority, Southampton City Council and the Isle of Wight council obtain devolved powers from government ‘looks highly unlikely’ following a meeting at Westminster on Wednesday.

She said that council leaders across south Hampshire must now consider potential mergers into larger unitary councils instead.

Cllr Jones said: ‘It now looks highly unlikely that the current deal will go ahead – if the government agrees it, I’d be delighted but at the moment I feel highly deeply disappointed.

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‘If it fails, this will mean the £1bn investment to the Solent area has been lost.’

She said that Hampshire County Council’s ‘refusal to support’ the deal had also scuppered its chances as Fareham, Gosport, Havant local authorities had previously expressed desire to join the SCA in principle.

Alan Mak, Havant MP said: ‘Devolution is about local councils and regions having more powers and Hampshire MPs continue to support this agenda.

‘Although the Solent deal is not moving forward in its current form, councils are welcome to put forward new ideas.’

However, Councillor Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council insisted no decision had been made on the deal and that councils had been ‘assured’ it was still on the table.

But he said the option to look at local government reorganisation was there – and urged for a decision to be made imminently.

County council leader Councillor Roy Perry said: ‘I’m not surprised if the deal is now dead. I call for us to come together and work to find practicable solutions to sustain quality services – in the face of cuts.’