CIVIC chiefs in Hampshire are seeking crunch talks with a top government minster after the chaos engulfing British politics heaped doubt on the £900 million Solent devolution deal.

Nerves are running high over the future of a combined authority for the region following the nation’s vote to leave the EU.

Although an announcement had been due this month, civic chiefs now hope to wrap up the deal before the Tory leadership contest in October, with no guarantee the next prime minister will want to hand down powers.

Theresa May, Stephen Crabb, Michael Gove, Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom were announced as the candidates in the contest, with home secretary Ms May installed as the favourite after Boris Johnson’s shock exit.

Plans for a combined authority would give Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight an expected £30 million a year for 30 years, with greater control over jobs, transport and housing.

Southampton City Council boss Simon Letts said he was “modestly confident” but admitted fears that the government would be unable to get the deal through.

He said: “We travel in hope rather than expectation. I’m hoping to get it done before any of that [the leadership contest] unravels.

“We’ve been told that it’s business as usual at the moment – but they would say that. They wouldn’t say the whole thing is burning and everyone’s running around like headless chickens not knowing what to do.”

The deal would seize powers and budgets from Westminster without replacing any councils.

Solent would also keep all the region’s business rates, worth around £400 million over the three decades.

Leaders hope the deal will boost transport, housing and business support, with schemes like a Southampton tram network and the Leisure World redevelopment tied to devolution money.

Once the deal is secured they hope to negotiate power in areas like health and criminal justice.

Devolution has been championed by George Osborne, whose days as chancellor are numbered following the referendum. The frontrunners to become prime minister, Theresa May and Michael Gove, have not made their views clear.

The councils hope to meet local government secretary Greg Clark and seek assurances when he visits Bournemouth this week (Jul 5-7) for the Local Government Association conference.

But they still face another barrier – their bitter stand-off with Hampshire County Council.

County leader Roy Perry fiercely resists the plans, meaning district councils under his umbrella, like Winchester, Eastleigh and the New Forest, will be unable to join immediately.

Solent leaders are pressing ahead to keep pace with other devolution bids across England, but hope the districts will come aboard in future.

They admit this could require a legal wrangle if the county council stands firm.

Cllr Perry has looked at creating a unitary ‘Hampshire Council’ for the whole area, scrapping district and city councils, and warns the Solent deal would split the county.