Yesterday we heard from former political advisor and activist David Banks, who revealed the reasons why he believes a combined authority across Portsmouth, Hampshire and Southampton would not work. Today Councillor
Sean Woodward, a supporter of regional devolution, executive member for transport, environment and economy at Hampshire County Council and leader of Fareham Borough Council, answers the same
questions and says why he thinks a single authority would be a good idea for the area.
1 Does a Hampshire Combined Authority bring more control to local people?
Yes. It is important to be aware that there is no local government reorganisation proposed, no extra unitary councils, no elected mayors, no extra tier of bureaucracy and no removal of existing powers from local councils.
This is all about bringing decision-making that currently sits in Whitehall and is dispensed by faceless bureaucrats home to locally-elected councillors.
2 Will the Hampshire Combined Authority bring additional funds?
If there are powers devolved by central government to local government, it is critical that the funding follows and that it is not seen as a cost-cutting exercise by government.
3 Does the proposal enhance local democracy?
Yes. It ensures that decisions affecting people’s lives are taken locally by elected councillors rather than by unelected bureaucrats and quangos. The combined authority would make its decisions on the basis of one elected council leader, one vote so all areas are equally represented.
4 Will local councils retain the same independence, free from pressure from the combined authority?
Yes. The only decisions taken by the combined authority will be on functions devolved by government.
Powers will not be sucked up from local councils.
5 Are there strong reasons why the proposed boundary, bringing together Portsmouth, Southampton and Hampshire County Council, has been created?
Many local people were supportive of a Solent-wide combined authority based on the boundaries of the south Hampshire and Isle of Wight councils.
Some powers that may be devolved however, such as health and social care, can probably more appropriately be wielded on a larger Hampshire-wide basis.
However it is important that south Hampshire and the Isle of Wight continues to be properly recognised as a functional economic area in its own right in terms of spatial planning and infrastructure issues through the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire or a similar organisation, as what is right for Basingstoke may well not be right for Portsmouth and Fareham.
6 Do we know which powers will be handed to the Hampshire Combined Authority?
This will depend on negotiations to be had with the government.
7 Does the proposal enhance Portsmouth’s historic status?
Providing proper recognition for South Hampshire is included within the eventual decision-making arrangements, then yes it will.
8 Is there any guarantee the regional authority won’t be forced to have an elected mayor?
The area will be forced to consider its governance arrangements and that includes consideration of an elected mayor.
The quantum of powers devolved is likely to depend on robust governance arrangements.
The government considers an elected mayor to be a strong governance model. However there are others and there is no desire that I can detect to implement a mayoral model in Hampshire.
9 If it goes wrong, can we change our minds?
We will only agree to form a combined authority if our offer to government is accepted and appropriate powers are proposed for devolution to the local area.
If, however, the deal is not seen as worthwhile then it will not be agreed.
As with all governance structures they can be unpicked if they do not work and are not in the best interests of the area served.
10 Would the combined authority protect the green spaces between Portsmouth and Southampton from housing quotas?
I have proposed that the combined authority should have the power to designate Green Belt land.
There is no Green Belt in Hampshire apart from a small amount in the New Forest.
It is a much more powerful designation than anything we have currently to protect our green spaces.
I hope residents would support this power being available to our area.