30 Jun 2016

Combined authority bid moves forward

Plans to bring £900 million of funding to our region are moving forward as three councils prepare to formally consider plans for a Solent Combined Authority.

The Isle of Wight Council, Portsmouth City Council and Southampton City Council, together with the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), are looking to press ahead with plans to create a combined authority to secure new powers and funding from government.

The proposed combined authority would be a vehicle for the three councils and the LEP to work together on a shared programme focusing on the region's economic growth and public service reform.

It would manage the new powers and funding but would not take the place of any existing council.

The three councils will be assessing a governance review outlining why the combined authority would be the best solution for the region. The review will go before Portsmouth's Cabinet on 8 July, it will be considered by the Isle of Wight Council's Executive on 14 July and Southampton's Full Council will receive it on 20 July.

Originally it had been hoped neighbouring district and borough councils would be part of the new arrangements but that has been prevented by Hampshire County Council's refusal to be involved. However government officials have indicated they are still keen to work with the area's three unitary councils, Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight, to progress plans.

Councillor Jonathan Bacon, leader of the Isle of Wight Council, said: “This is the necessary step in pursuing any potential devolution deal that might involve the Isle of Wight. The Island has recently been told by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, that no extra money will be found for the Isle of Wight to meet its current financial difficulties prior to the government’s Fair Funding Review in 2019/20. It is, therefore, important that we remain at the table and pursue steps that may enable us to obtain a share in the pot of £900 million that has currently been set aside for a local devolution deal.”

Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: "After months of working together, Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight councils are now in a position to start formal consultation with the public about securing greater spending power and responsibility for the Solent area, subject to each council's formal approval. This would see the creation of a new combined authority with enhanced powers over roads, the skills agenda and housing delivery. We have been working with the government for the last three months and have managed to secure £30 million a year, promised for a 30-year period, to develop the roads and sites for employment and housing. This is excellent news and a really positive and exciting step forward for the people of South Hampshire."

Councillor Simon Letts, leader of Southampton City Council, said: ”We have been clear all along that a deal to devolve powers, funding and decision making from central government to the local area is in the best interests of businesses and people living in Southampton and the wider region. We are disappointed that despite our best efforts to persuade them, Hampshire County Council will not sign up and support our bid to double the size of the regional economy. However, even without their support, and subject to the Governance Review and the Cabinet’s approval, we will continue to proceed with our plans for a combined authority and secure a more prosperous future for the people of this city.”

It is expected that government would give a Solent Combined Authority control of approximately £30 million of additional funding per year for the next 30 years to improve the infrastructure in South Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. This will allow decisions to be made locally rather than in Westminster. The deal would also enable all of the business rates generated in the area to be retained locally, meaning the area it would have better control of its financial future.

A combined authority would have responsibility for working with partners to increase business productivity, creating better jobs and more jobs, and aligning adult education and training to local business needs. Bringing these responsibilities together in the Solent area will create more certainty for businesses investment, simplify and strengthen support for business growth and innovation as well as focusing training in the skills local businesses need. As a result, more people would get jobs, businesses would prosper, and the whole of South Hampshire and the Isle of Wight would become better off.

It would control a dedicated transport budget, franchised bus services and the network of strategic local authority-maintained roads. 

It is also anticipated that once the combined authority is in place it would be able to demonstrate its successes and negotiate with government to agree further powers and opportunities to be devolved, potentially in areas such as health and criminal justice, as the Greater Manchester Combined Authority has done.

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Plans for Solent Combined Authority moving forward
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Factfile
  • The plans for a Solent Combined Authority could bring £900 million of funding to the region.
  • The proposed combined authority would be a vehicle for the three councils and the LEP to work together on a shared programme focusing on the region's economic growth and public service reform.
 
Isle of Wight, UK