Hampshire County Council’s Cabinet has welcomed progress on devolution plans for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (HIOW) which could see the area given greater powers from Government, to support local decision-making for the benefit of residents and local communities, and deliver a £3 billion boost to the UK economy.
At their meeting on 7 December, Cabinet Members heard about the positive discussions which took place during a recent meeting between the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark and council and business leaders involved in the HIOW bid – boosting hopes that Government is moving towards a devolution announcement in the New Year.
A successful devolution deal for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight would enable the area to gain greater control of the decisions that affect residents and businesses. The aim of handing down more powers from central Government to HIOW would be to increase the productivity of the local economy and deliver efficiencies, greater economic growth and prosperity, and better public services for local people.
County Council Leader, Councillor Perry explained: “Devolution would enable local decisions to be made on a local level – giving us more control on areas previously managed by central Government. In Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, there’s a firm commitment for a single, combined authority, where all partners are equal and working together at no extra cost to the taxpayer. It’s not about replacing or changing the two-tier structure of local authorities in Hampshire – it’s about acting together to get the powers we need from Government to grow our economy, protect our area and deliver a better deal for our 1.9 million residents and 80,000 businesses.
“Our recent meeting with Greg Clark was a very productive session during which he was positive about our collective proposals – praising Hampshire and the Isle of Wight for coming together so quickly, to develop a credible and ambitious bid. It was also an opportunity to unanimously reaffirm our commitment to taking control of public services and spending in our area in the interests of those who live and work here.
“Greg Clark has made it clear that he’d like to see more ambitious plans around housing – delivering more low-cost starter homes through the use of public land, which could help to unlock an early devolution deal for our area. My personal view on that is that housing numbers are primarily a matter for the planning authorities (Districts and Unitary councils) to agree rather than the County Council. To my mind, it would be crucial that there need to be absolute guarantees from the Government on infrastructure funding for essentials such as roads and schools. Also, we have said we would want planning powers to impose appropriate green infrastructure including green belt to stop communities coalescing. The real dilemma is do we face having extra housing imposed in any event, in which case we would be better able to defend the Hampshire environment with extra powers in a devolution deal.
“Greg Clark also wants to see us acting together with full accountability, although in our view we can do this without having an elected mayor, which is more suitable for large cities.
“The partnership is now preparing to go back to the Government with responses to their questions about our proposals. If it is good news in the New Year, the hard work really begins to underpin the detail within our proposals, as well as to begin planning a public consultation and governance review later in the year to gather wider views about devolution across our area.”
Implementation of any devolution deal would be subject to further decision making by Cabinet and the full County Council, as well as the other partners.