William Eichler 27 January 2017

Hampshire CC opposition makes Solent combined authority deal ‘unlikely’

Opposition from Hampshire County Council has made it ‘highly unlikely’ the Solent combined authority deal will proceed, council leader claims.

The proposed deal, including Portsmouth, Southampton, Isle of Wight, Fareham, Gosport, Havant Eastleigh and East Hampshire, would have brought £1bn of Government investment to the Solent.

However, Hampshire CC has in the past resisted plans to create a Solent combined authority arguing independent research showed a new unitary authority would be a better way of saving money and protecting public services.

Leader of Portsmouth City Council Donna Jones yesterday accused Hampshire of blocking the deal and costing the area £1bn.

‘Hampshire County Council was the only remaining partner in the Solent that refused to support the Solent Deal,’ she said.

‘Because of this, and following yesterday's meeting with the Hampshire MPs, it now looks highly unlikely that the current deal will go ahead.’

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

‘The additional pressure this places on our roads and rail is huge - this area has been under-invested for decades and we are losing out to the north of England.’

Hampshire leader Cllr Roy Perry responded to Portsmouth’s accusations saying the deal made ‘no economic sense’.

‘I have written to the Solent leaders explaining why the technical analysis they had commissioned doesn’t work and doesn’t support their case,’ he said.

‘We have gone through it carefully and know that to be so.

‘The Solent bid would not help the local economy, it would do it harm by isolating the area from the economic resources of the wider county as well as forcing the dismantling of vital county services – now and in the future.’

In the event the Solent deal is not realised, Cllr Jones said, some of Hampshire’s 14 councils should consider merging ‘to end up with fewer larger all-purpose councils’.

She said these unitary councils could save the taxpayer an estimated £100m a year.

However, Cllr Perry also disagreed with this proposal and said it made ‘no sense financially or for services’. Instead, he insisted a county-wide unitary authority would be the best approach.

‘There is actually an overwhelming financial and service case for creating a county- wide unitary, as is being planned in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire,’ he said.

‘All local and national evidence shows that this would do more than any other model to save money, protect vital services and cut council tax.’

‘I am calling on my fellow leaders to call a halt, knowing that nothing will now be forthcoming from central Government for the time being at least, and let us get back around the table in the interests of all of our communities,’ he added.

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