Councils press ahead with combined authority proposals


Plans to bring £900m of funding to our region are moving forward as three councils prepare to formally consider plans for a Solent Combined Authority.
 
Southampton City Council, Portsmouth City Council and Isle of Wight Council, together with the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), are looking to press ahead with plans to create a combined authority to secure new powers and funding from government.
 
The proposed combined authority would be a vehicle for the three councils and the LEP to work together on a shared programme focusing on the region's economic growth and public service reform.
 
It would manage the new powers and funding but would not take the place of any existing council.
 
The three councils will be assessing a governance review outlining why the combined authority would be the best solution for the region. The review will go before Portsmouth's Cabinet on 8 July, it will be considered by Isle of Wight's Executive on 14 July and Southampton's Full Council will receive it on 20 July.
 
Originally it had been hoped neighbouring district and borough councils would be part of the new arrangements but that has been prevented by Hampshire County Council's refusal to be involved. However government officials have indicated they are still keen to work with the area's three unitary councils, Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight, to progress plans.
  
It is expected that government would give a Solent Combined Authority control of approximately £30m of additional funding per year for the next 30 years to improve the infrastructure in South Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. This will allow decisions to be made locally rather than in Westminster. The deal would also enable all of the business rates generated in the area to be retained locally, meaning the area it would have better control of its financial future.
 
A combined authority would have responsibility for working with partners to increase business productivity, creating better jobs and more jobs, and aligning adult education and training to local business needs. Bringing these responsibilities together in the Solent area will create more certainty for businesses investment, simplify and strengthen support for business growth and innovation as well as focusing training in the skills local businesses need. As a result, more people would get jobs, businesses would prosper, and the whole of South Hampshire & the Isle of Wight would become better off.
 
It would control a dedicated transport budget, franchised bus services and the network of strategic local authority-maintained roads. 

It is also anticipated that once the combined authority is in place it would be able to demonstrate its successes and negotiate with government to agree further powers and opportunities to be devolved, potentially in areas such as health and criminal justice, as the Greater Manchester Combined Authority has done.
 
The draft deal for the Solent Mayoral Combined Authority includes the following powers and responsibilities for the areas involved:
  • £900m funding for the area over 30 years (£30m p.a.) to invest in economic growth and housing.
  • Keeping all business rates generated in the area (approximately £400m) and leaving the current system of government funding for local councils - meaning the area would have better control of its own financial future and piloting the new approach
  • Power to create a spatial plan
  • Increase productivity and create more jobs and better jobs by simplifying and strengthening support for business growth, innovation, and global trade and investment
  • Control of the budget for adult education and training in the area, enabling a focus on the skills businesses want people to have, therefore people get jobs and businesses prosper
  • Development of a new programme to help the hardest to help claimants back into work and provide them with support
  • Delivering new homes in the area Control of a dedicated transport budget, franchised bus services and key network of local authority maintained roads
  • Innovative and integrated approaches to public service reform, including health