Portsmouth City Council ‘left in the dark’ over decision to scrap combined authority bid

Councillor Simon Letts, leader of Southampton City Council , Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council and Councillor Jonathan Bacon, leader of Isle of Wight Council met two years ago to sign a bid for a combined authority
Councillor Simon Letts, leader of Southampton City Council , Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council and Councillor Jonathan Bacon, leader of Isle of Wight Council met two years ago to sign a bid for a combined authority

THE former leader of Portsmouth City Council has voiced her disappointment after a shock letter revealed plans for a combined authority had fallen through.  

Tory councillor Donna Jones bid for the Solent Combined Authority alongside bosses of Southampton City Council and the Isle of Wight Council, during her time as leader in 2016. It was thought the move would have guaranteed the area £900m of new funding over the next 30 years.

But today it was confirmed that the bid had been scrapped after Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan shared a letter he received from devolution minister Jake Berry which said: 'In short, the 2016 devolution deal is not on the table.'

Cllr Jones believed the council had been left in the dark, and that correspondence earlier this year with prime minister Theresa May did not clarify the situation. The government claims this made it clear the deal was off.

'The letter I received in April this year from the Prime Minister did not make the position clear,' she said. 'It just talked about where devolution deals would make sense. It did not say yes or no to our appeal.

'As far as I was aware the government had still failed to comment officially with Portsmouth City Council or Southampton or Isle of Wight.'

However, she remained hopeful for the future. She said: 'My understanding is that Brexit is taking up a large amount of time and my hope is a number of combined authorities will be pursued after Brexit.

'I remain convinced the best thing for Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight is to form one authority.'

Mr Morgan shared Cllr Jones' frustration. He added: 'This scrapping of our bid without notification is a kick in the teeth for Portsmouth and means our city missing out on millions in much-needed funding.

'The Solent region has the potential to achieve so much more, but it needs government to finally give us the funding and power we need. The devolution plans were a vehicle for this. If the government is intent on ignoring them, they must step up with an alternative.'

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government commented: 'The government is committed to supporting the growth and prosperity of the Solent area, and is investing £182.92m in the region as part of the three Local Growth Deal funding rounds awarded to the Solent Local Enterprise Partnerships.

'In line with the manifesto commitment, the government is developing a devolution framework to clarify what devolution means for different administrations to help all authorities operate in a common framework, and will provide local areas with clarity on how best to take forward their local growth ambitions over the coming months.'