IN the wake of the referendum results yesterday, jubilant Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to “change the UK for the better”.

Hours later Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg joined the fray.

He declared it was time to release the “clammy grip” of Westminster and Whitehall “so that communities, families, cities, towns and villages across the UK feel that they have more say over their destiny than is currently the case”.

The flag of St Wyvern was the symbol of Wessex

“I see today as the beginning of a process, not the end,” he told reporters.

“Where we reaffirm what unites us in the United Kingdom but we move towards a phase of much greater decentralisation, devolution and autonomy for all the communities that make up the UK, and crucially that we enter into a new, exciting chapter of constitutional renewal where more power and more control is put into the hands of the people themselves.”

So if it really is power to the |people what does that mean for us here in Hampshire?

One campaigning group is adamant the ancient kingdom of Wessex points the way ahead for devolution in the south.

With a population larger than Scotland, and a history as rich and ancient as Wales and Cornwall, Wessex Regionalist party secretary-general David Robins said the Scots vote offered a golden opportunity to revive Wessex, which includes Hampshire, Dorset and Devon.

He said: “Our view is that local Government has been very badly treated and should be given more powers, not fewer.”

The party’s vision is for the region to be represented by a flag of St Wyvern – the patron saint of Wessex who would be celebrated in a special day. County, city and borough councils would remain in place and have no powers taken away, rather the Wessex assembly powers would come from Westminster.

This would mean slashing the number of MPs and Whitehall civil servants, with the pruned UK Government largely presiding over national and international policy such as defence.

Following a referendum, an assembly would be created like that in Wales. It would have law-making and tax-raising powers and govern matters such as benefits, NHS, education, transport, agriculture, tourism, economy and the environment.

Mr Robins said: “It would be able to set its own priorities, which are sometimes different to those of London, and spend on what people would like to see locally.

“You would have a Government that was more responsive to local priorities and a reduction in the cost of government which could save millions which would be available to spend on services.”

The mini-parliament would be based in the ancient Wessex capital of Winchester.

Winchester was the ancient capital of Wessex

But local government expert David Kett, from Highbury College in Cosham, said the Government would only be willing to offer devolution to the big cities rather than a self-governing Wessex.

To win the extra powers from Westminister he said Southampton and Portsmouth would probably have to join forces to form what could be called “Solent City”.

Already this has been done when the two rival cities teamed up and successfully bid last year for £953m of investment under City Deal, a Government scheme already devolving some spending powers.

Mr Kett also said the problem with creating a selfgoverning region such as Wessex would be winning people over in a referendum.

During the New Labour administration in 2004 the north-east – which boasts a strong and proud self-identity – was polled about having a regional assembly but three-quarters of voters rejected it because they did not think it was worth having.

Dr Alexandra Kelso, from the School of Social Sciences at the University of Southampton, said the key would be not to rush through the devolution plans.

She said: “I think there’s much to be said for a slightly more relaxed and thought-out approach to make sure it’s right and local people across England have their voices heard about what they want to see.”

Southampton City Council leader Cllr Simon Letts agrees and says he strongly argues that there should be genuine conversation with everyone in England, the business community and the voluntary sector about what happens next.

Cllr Simon Letts

He said: “It requires more conversations than just moving a few deck chairs.

“I am really hoping that the Government sets up a constitutional committee to look at the issue, rather than just coming up with a simplistic boxticking approach.

“We will now see where we go from here.”

However, Hampshire County Council leader Cllr Roy Perry said that devolution could win support if counties are given real powers to shape local services and the economy.

He will now be writing to the Prime Minister David Cameron urging that any devolution proposals for England should be based on the ancient shires such as Hampshire – rather than creating any new artificial regions such as Wessex.

He said: “I subscribe to a county like Hampshire having the power that a devolved assembly has.

“It is the third most populous county and if you include the two great and historic cities of Portsmouth and Southampton, the population of two million begins to approach that of Wales.

“Wales already has devolved powers and now if the northern cities are to gain devolved powers then people in the great shires of England must not be treated as second class citizens.”

Cllr Perry said he would also be writing to all the MPs from Hampshire urging them to press in Parliament for devolved powers to this part of the country.

He added: “I am urging Hampshire’s present MPs to ensure Hampshire hogs gain more powers to control their own affairs.

“I support devolution to Scotland and Wales and the northern cities but what is good for them is good for us.”