Winchester could join Southampton and Portsmouth in a new Solent City authority
Duncan Geddes, Reporter ( Nov. 2014)
WINCHESTER district could be cut in half under plans to form a giant council across south Hampshire, a civic chief has warned.
A ‘Solent City Combined Authority’ representing more than a million people is set to be discussed by local leaders this month but Winchester could be left out or split in two by the project, according to Hampshire County Council leader Roy Perry.
The new authority, centred on Southampton and Portsmouth and headed by an elected mayor, would revolutionise the way billions of pounds of public funds are spent on things like roads, social care and major infrastructure projects.
Civic chiefs disagree on the viability of the scheme and where the boundaries should be drawn. Winchester’s involvement is yet to be decided.
But Cllr Perry warned last week that the Winchester would be split if towns and villages in the south of the district join the Solent authority.
He told the Chronicle: “Just having south Hampshire [in the Solent City region] would cut New Forest District, Test Valley and Winchester in half, and that, I think, isn’t good.
“If it’s going to happen we need to keep it as simple as possible.”
Westminster parties are warning local chiefs that they could miss out on extra powers and funding if they don’t join larger authorities.
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Cllr Rob Humby, leader of Winchester City Council, said: “In terms of devolution I want and would support whatever is best for Winchester. I would like to see Hampshire remain together with Winchester as a key part of that and making decisions for itself.”
Chris Turner, executive director of Winchester BID, warned that arguments about boundaries at an early stage would “lose the big picture” but said that Winchester would not suffer from being left out of a new super-council.
“The economy of Winchester is one doing pretty well in all the rankings,” he said. “The answer would be our sense that our own future would be up the M3 corridor towards London rather than down towards Southampton. It would happily sit alongside what’s going on in Southampton.”
He added that he was generally “very much in favour” of devolution to the south.
Cllr Humby will join other civic leaders to discuss the proposals at a Partnership for Urban South Hampshire (PUSH) meeting on December 2.
He refused to comment on how he would approach the talks.