Hampshire County Council launches an eight week public consultation next week (27 July) to gather residents’ views on how they would like to see local government operate in Hampshire in future.
The Serving Hampshire Consultation sets out the potential options for how Hampshire County Council and the 11 district councils in Hampshire could change, or be reorganised, to meet the huge challenges they face from ongoing cuts to their funding from central Government – and from rising demand for services such as social care for children and vulnerable adults from a growing population.
“We want everyone to have their say on an issue which will affect generations to come,” said County Council Leader, Councillor Roy Perry. “The views of all residents in Hampshire are very important to me, and it’s crucial that we keep them at the forefront of the wider devolution agenda from which our consultation on potential local government reorganisation stems. It is particularly relevant as the priorities for the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, include devolving decision making powers to local areas and helping communities deliver excellent public services. I’ve written to Mr Javid to tell him of our consultation, and hope to meet with him and discuss how to help local people in Hampshire to take more control of their own future.”
The consultation concerns the county of Hampshire – the area covered by Hampshire County Council and the 11 district councils in Hampshire – not the cities of Portsmouth and Southampton or the Isle of Wight. However, some of the options for change in Hampshire do refer to the two cities and the Island. Members of the public are invited to answer questions on a number of options involving proposals to create combined authorities, elected mayors and unitary councils, as well as the status quo.
Councillor Perry commented: “Since the proposal for a Solent combined authority emerged involving the councils for Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight with the potential to include Hampshire district councils in the future, we face the prospect of the county being split, and the damage that this would do to high quality, countywide services. Feedback from our consultation will help to inform decisions about how vital services could be protected in future, such as roads, rights of way, social care for vulnerable children and adults, and essential infrastructure to support new housing – without damaging delivery or compromising on performance.
“Before any changes are agreed for Hampshire, I am determined to listen first and decide later – not the other way around. I note that the unitary councils of Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight are asking people for their views on the proposals for a Solent combined authority, but the County Council’s consultation is different in so much as we are asking people what they think before any proposals are made. The Solent bid authorities are seeking views on something they have already agreed in principle.
“We have always been a staunch advocate of the two-tier local government system and have worked to engage with Hampshire’s 11 district councils on our proposals and encourage them to join us in our consultation. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been possible to reach an agreement with them, but we hope that all the districts will engage with this exercise, in the interests of the communities they serve.
“Local people know what’s best for their communities, which is why we are undertaking this objective, careful, independent consultation exercise to find out what the people of Hampshire want. I urge everyone to provide their views.”
The consultation will be carried out by independent researchers Ipsos MORI, who will process and analyse the consultation responses. Findings will help Hampshire County Council to consider what recommendations to make to central Government, to ensure that any proposals for change or local government reorganisation that might be taken forward are informed by the preferences of Hampshire residents and stakeholders.