Public supports Solent Combined Authority plans

The public has issued support for plans to form a combined authority covering the Solent area.

A public consultation on the proposal, surveying 2,500 people, saw 71 per cent of respondents vote in favour of the move.

The Solent Combined Authority would be responsible for services currently managed by central government, and would receive £900 million of new funding over the next three decades.

The Authority would combine the workforce of Isle of Wight Council, Portsmouth City Council, Southampton City Council and the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, although councils themselves would remain separate.

75 per cent of respondents to the consultation voted in favour of more local powers to support businesses to grow and 74 per cent backed extra powers for transport. New responsibilities for skills and employment were favoured by 73 per cent and 70 per cent agreed with more local powers for housing and infrastructure planning.

Cllr Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, commented: “It is fantastic to know people back the principles behind our plans for a combined authority.

“The Solent Combined Authority would secure £30 million a year every year for the next 30 years, so that's £900 million to spend on improving roads, helping create jobs and delivering good quality new homes. This will benefit the residents of Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight.

“This is a really positive and exciting step forward for residents and businesses in South Hampshire which will give them better opportunities for years to come,.

Cllr Jonathan Bacon, leader of the Isle of Wight Council, added: “The total response rate of 2,531 compares favourably with other consultations on the establishment of mayoral combined authorities elsewhere, for example the West Midlands combined authority (with a population over six times that of the Solent) received 1,907 questionnaire responses.

“While the Sheffield City region combined authority consultation received 188 more questionnaire responses than the Solent consultation but the population of the Sheffield City Region is three times that of the Solent region.”

Nonetheless, not everyone has welcomed the proposals, with Hampshire County Council refusing to back the plans, claiming independent research showed a new unitary authority would be a better way of saving money and protecting public services.

The plan for a Solent Combined Authority will now go to the full council meetings for the local authorities involved, before a formal bid is submitted to the government.

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