PLANS for a “historic” devolution deal that could lead to thousands of new homes, transport improvements across Hampshire and create hundreds of jobs are set to be sent to Government ministers.
Fifteen council leaders representing the county and the Isle of Wight signed the bid that could transform the way some services are run in Hampshire.
Plans for devolution have been discussed for more than a year now with council leaders eager to follow the likes of Greater Manchester in seizing more powers over health, transport and skills budgets.
Now the county’s leaders have signed a joint bid that puts more meat on the bones of what devolution could bring to Hampshire.
The formal bid being sent to ministers will describe the proposals as a “golden opportunity” for the entire country and that they want Hampshire to be in the “vanguard of English devolution for years to come”.
They say success could inject an extra £3billion into the nation’s economy every year, and are asking for control of all of the county’s business rates while foregoing the revenue support grants received by councils, and a new funding system which would not leave any authority worse off.
Local housing plans already have targets for 76,000 new homes across Hampshire by 2026 but devolution proposals could add 500 new homes on to that every year with a particular focus on affordable homes in rural areas, low-cost properties and council houses.
Most of these would be built on “exception sites” to include redundant public land and brownfield sites, although there are proposals to set in stone a county-wide green belt which could not be built on.
There would be more support for local businesses, research and cutting-edge marine technology in particular and plans to create an extra 1,000 apprenticeships every year as well as creating new jobs.
The plans would also see the new “Southern Powerhouse” have power over transport improvement plans such as major projects on the M27 and M3 that could create a Hampshire equivalent of the Oystercard, while the bid would also protect bus services in rural areas and evenings.
The county’s motorways could become “managed” earlier than originally planned with hard shoulders being used during peak hours to ease congestion.
And there would also be county-wide programmes to bring long-term unemployed people back into work, integrate health and social care services and improve adoption services.
The deal would effectively create a new tier of local government, but civic chiefs stress it would not mean any council disappearing.
have stressed that it would not mean any council disappearing.
If the plans are agreed during the Government’s spending review a Hampshire-wide consultation could be launched next spring.
Southampton City Council leader Simon Letts said: “It is a historic proposal, if’s an agreement of 15 local councils of three different political parties as well as the Independents on the Isle of Wight, to come together and work collaboratively for the betterment of the whole area.”