Ahead of a Notice of Motion due to be considered at this week’s meeting of Hampshire County Council, (22 February), County Leader, Councillor Roy Perry has made it clear that a Combined Authority only, is being proposed by the Council.
Commenting, Councillor Perry said: “My letter to Hampshire’s 11 District Council Leaders proposes that we resubmit the September 2015 bid for a combined authority for all Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. I will be inviting the three unitary councils and the LEPs and National Parks to re-join the bid as well. Contrary to some recent claims, at no point have I stated that I wish to re-open talks on a ‘Mayoral Combined Authority’.
“We strongly believe there is scope for enhancing the original Combined Authority bid to cover more co-operation between all tiers of local government, on housing delivery and with the health authorities, particularly for social care - but this would be in the context of a Combined Authority, NOT a Mayoral Combined Authority, or a Unitary Council.
“I have spoken with Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State, and he was quite clear that he would not wish to impose anything that would not have Hampshire County Council’s agreement. He also knows our concern that if a unitary Solent City were to be established, that could, and almost certainly would, lead to the division of Hampshire.
“Disrupting a county like Hampshire would be a very expensive and time consuming exercise. It would also devastate some of the best local government services in the country. I am sure we can make significant economies with a combined authority (whilst still keeping local councils) by more shared service delivery between the County and Districts.
“There is a need for speeding up housing delivery, and it is the County Council, with its responsibility for highways and education, that has the scale and capacity and capital funds and flexibility to speed up that delivery.
“We are already working more closely with the NHS, but there is scope for even closer integration, but we need the same footprint – i.e. a pan Hampshire and Isle of Wight footprint for local government without disrupting existing arrangements for Health, Police and Fire.
“My view is that it is Hampshire’s scale and capacity that has enabled it to avoid the really severe financial problems being faced in other parts of the country, such as in Northamptonshire.
“I am well aware that there have been differing agendas on these issues, and I will of course fully respect any Unitary Authority which chooses not to engage in this proposal. However, I feel that a Hampshire-wide approach offers the best and only realistic opportunity of a platform for real devolution to aid economic development, including in the Cities and on the Island - while benefiting all residents.”