What way forward for local government in Hampshire? HCC launches a public consultation
Hampshire County Council launches an 8-week public consultation on 27 July to gather residents’ views on how they would like to see local government operate in Hampshire in future.
This consultation follows a period which has seen an unravelling of the first devolution bid which covered Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton and IOW and a deterioration of relationships, with the creation of Solent and Mid-Hampshire proposals.
The Serving Hampshire consultation sets out the potential options for how Hampshire County Council and the 11 district councils in Hampshire could change, or be reorganised, to meet the huge challenges they face from ongoing cuts to their funding from central government – and from rising demand for services such as social care for children and vulnerable adults from a growing population.
The consultation concerns the county of Hampshire – the area covered by Hampshire County Council and the 11 district councils in Hampshire – not the cities of Portsmouth and Southampton or the Isle of Wight. However, some of the options for change in Hampshire do refer to the two cities and the Island. People are invited to answer questions on a number of options involving proposals to create combined authorities, elected mayors and unitary councils, as well as the status quo.
The rancour still appears to continue. Cllr Roy Perry, leader of the County Council, said:
“Before any changes are agreed for Hampshire, I am determined to listen first and decide later – not the other way around. I note that the unitary councils of Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight are asking people for their views on the proposals for a Solent combined authority, but the County Council’s consultation is different in so much as we are asking people what they think before any proposals are made. The Solent bid authorities are seeking views on something they have already agreed in principle.
“We have always been a staunch advocate of the two-tier local government system and have worked to engage with Hampshire’s 11 district councils on our proposals and encourage them to join us in our consultation. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been possible to reach an agreement with them, but we hope that all the districts will engage with this exercise, in the interests of the communities they serve.”
The consultation will be carried out by independent researchers, Ipsos MORI, who will process and analyse the consultation responses. Findings will help Hampshire County Council to consider what recommendations to make to central government, to ensure that any proposals for change or local government reorganisation that might be taken forward are informed by the preferences of Hampshire residents and stakeholders.