THE EXTENT to which Southampton will benefit from grabbing key powers from the Government will be the focus of the upcoming Business Solent Working Lunch.

As reported in yesterday’s Daily Echo, Southampton and Portsmouth have signed up to the £1.5 billion City Deal initiative which is set to bring massive investment and a jobs boom to the region.

Under the scheme city leaders will have more power over tax and spending decisions, regeneration programmes and business and skills investment.

News of the deal has been welcomed by all quarters of the business community.

Sally Lynskey, CEO of Business Solent, said: “City Deal will enable Southamp-ton and Portsmouth to unlock the potential in our region.

“News that the greater independence from Whitehall will lead to more jobs and the kick-starting of developments such as the Royal Pier waterfront scheme, vindicates what Business Solent has been saying for some time.

“Our hope now is that this is just the start and greater powers will be devolved to the districts as well as the cities,” she added.

The subject of the City Deal and what it will mean for the region will be the hot topic of conversation at the next Business Solent Working Lunch, being staged on March 14 at the Mercure Dolphin Hotel in Southampton.

Business leaders at the event, staged in association with the Daily Echo, will hear how the deal will affect the local economy.

Francis Davis, fellow of the think tank Res Publica and former policy adviser to the Secretary of State for Local Government, will speak at the event and provide an overview of City Deals, including the political analysis that underpins them and what impact they could have on business.

Tom Bolton, senior analyst from research and policy institute Centre for Cities, will then give a regional context, including what economic impact City Deal could have in the south central region.

Already money from the deal – to be signed in July – has been earmarked to push forward the expansion of Southampton port, creating up to 4,000 jobs, the redevelopment of Royal Pier, creating around 6,000 jobs, and investment in the city centre and the Itchen riverside, to create homes, retail and business opportunities.

Announcing the go-ahead for 20 areas to negotiate with the Government, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said it would set Southampton and Portsmouth “free from the Whitehall leash”.