William Eichler 06 October 2016

Public back plans for a Solent Combined Authority

The public have given their support for plans to form a combined authority covering the Solent area.

A public consultation on the idea of a Solent Combined Authority, including a directly elected mayor, saw 2,500 people take part, with 71% responding favourably.

The proposed authority would take on responsibility for services currently managed by central government and receive £900m of new funding over the next 30 years.

It would involve Isle of Wight Council, Portsmouth City Council, Southampton City Council and the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership working closer together, but it would not replace the councils.

On the specific details, 75% of respondents to the consultation were in favour of more local powers to support businesses to grow and 74% backed extra powers for transport.

New responsibilities for skills and employment were favoured by 73% and 70% agree with more local powers for housing and infrastructure planning.

‘It is fantastic to know people back the principles behind our plans for a combined authority,’ said Cllr Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council.

‘The Solent Combined Authority would secure £30m a year every year for the next 30 years, so that's £900m to spend on improving roads, helping create jobs and delivering good quality new homes. This will benefit the residents of Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight.’

‘This is a really positive and exciting step forward for residents and businesses in South Hampshire which will give them better opportunities for years to come,’ she added.

Cllr Jonathan Bacon, leader of the Isle of Wight Council, pointed out the consultation turn out compared ‘favourably’ with other, comparable consultations.

‘The total response rate of 2,531 compares favourably with other consultations on the establishment of mayoral combined authorities elsewhere, for example the West Midlands combined authority (with a population over six times that of the Solent) received 1,907 questionnaire responses,’ he said.

‘While the Sheffield City region combined authority consultation received 188 more questionnaire responses than the Solent consultation but the population of the Sheffield City Region is three times that of the Solent region.’

The plan to form the Solent Combined Authority has attracted some controversy.

Hampshire County Council refused to back it earlier in the year arguing independent research showed a new unitary authority would be a better way of saving money and protecting public services.

Hampshire’s leader Roy Perry defended the idea of a unitary authority against accusations it would be a ‘mega-unitary’. He argued it would be ‘no larger than the current size of the county council’ and would provide savings of £400m over 10 years.

The plans for a Solent Combined Authority will now go to the full council meetings for the three councils involved, ahead of each cabinet making a decision on submitting a formal bid to government.

The consultation has been blasted for sampling less than 1% of the local population.

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