Hampshire and the Isle of Wight’s devolution proposals have paved the way for what Chancellor George Osborne has called “the biggest transfer of power to our local government in living memory”.
Of all the devolution bids submitted to government, the ambitious region led the way in pushing for full devolution of business rates. The concept has been well received as the Chancellor announced [5 October] it will be rolled out nationally, meaning councils across the country will benefit.
While many details remain to be confirmed by the government, the announcement comes as an early endorsement for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight’s devolution bid, and further increases optimism around the plans as negotiations with central government begin in earnest.
Full devolution of business rates is central to the proposals and would see councils giving up government grants in return, making them independent of Westminster and linking the prosperity of the public sector to the success of local business.
Following last week’s announcement of a devolution deal for South Yorkshire, more successful areas’ bids are expected to be named in the coming days, while it is hoped the Hampshire and the Isle of Wight deal will be announced later this year.
The area’s devolution proposals are set out in a prospectus submitted to central government on behalf of 15 councils, two local enterprise partnerships and two national park authorities. The bid has also received the support of Hampshire Constabulary, Hampshire Fire & Rescue and NHS England Wessex.
Should the proposals be successful, the ambitious nature of the devolution deal and number of partners involved mean it could become a blueprint for cities and regions across the country to follow.
Hampshire and the Isle of Wight’s proposals focus around four key themes: boosting business and skills for work; accelerating housing delivery; investing in infrastructure; and transforming public services.
Within these themes, projects will deliver on the government’s productivity plan and rural productivity plan and ensure: more homes are built; more efficient local planning; further expansion of broadband; better mobile connectivity; improved transport connections; a more highly-skilled workforce with employers setting the skills agenda locally; higher employment and better wages.