PRESS RELEASE FROM EAST HAMPSHIRE DISTRICT COUNCIL
Councillors support concept of Hampshire combined authority
Councillors have agreed to support the concept of a combined authority across Hampshire which would see 15 councils across the area joining forces to take local control over some services that would be devolved from central government like transport, skills and infrastructure.
But East Hampshire councillors are adamant that they will only pursue this if there are clear benefits for East Hampshire residents and businesses. They agreed to support the concept of devolution in principle so that they could seek further information and clarity before committing the council.
Following almost two hours of debate at last night’s full council meeting at East Hampshire District Council members agreed to support the motion: “This council supports in principle the concept of a Hampshire combined authority. Clear benefits must be demonstrated to East Hampshire residents and business entities and it must build on the direction set by the council’s corporate strategy prior to any future commitment.”
All of the 15 local authorities in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have to support the proposal if central government is to devolve its powers and enable a combined authority to be created.
If the Hampshire combined authority goes ahead then it could take on some new areas including:
– Local control over funding for skills, post-16 education, apprenticeships and lifelong learning
– More local control over national infrastructure spending on transport and housing
– Integration of health and social care
– Freedom to borrow against the forecast proceeds of local growth to support enabling infrastructure (this would include big ticket items like roads and schools)
– A comprehensive public sector ‘land bank’ making surplus NHS and Ministry of Defence land available for housing
– Ability to use public procurement and national business support budgets to support local business growth
– Greater retention of growth in business rates
Cllr Ferris Cowper, Leader of East Hampshire District Council, said: “I think we need to say that we are in this until we understand the effect it has on our community and we will not commit beyond that.
“This is an exploratory first step to see whether a combined authority would benefit East Hampshire. Combined authorities have good and bad points and the only way we can make an informed judgement is to stay in the scheme long enough to get the information we need.”
There are currently five ‘combined authorities’ in the country – these are in Manchester, Sheffield, West Yorkshire (Leeds), Liverpool and the North East. Of these, Manchester is the most-developed and includes 10 local authorities.
A combined authority is a corporate body which enables local authorities to work jointly to deliver improvements in things like economic development, regeneration and transport across a functional economic area. It does not replace, merge or take over the individual councils that together form it.
“I found myself the only EHDC Councillor who felt unable to support this at this stage. The good news is that the EHDC decision was very carefully worded. I believe that HCC will debate this on Thursday 9th July.” Cllr Bob Ayer.