A few months ago I posted an article about the possibility of a Solent LEP based Combined Authority. In the last few months a rival bid has come forward for a larger Hampshire Wide Combined Authority and this was recently debated at our EHDC Council Meeting.
Essentially this is the devolution of some powers from Whitehall to local areas, on a similar basis as Greater Manchester, but the powers that get devolved need to make economic sense but might include Skills, Transport and Infrastructure.
Following almost two hours of debate at the full council meeting at East Hampshire District Council, members agreed to support the motion: “This council supports in principle the concept of a Hampshire combined authority. Clear benefits must be demonstrated to East Hampshire residents and business entities and it must build on the direction set by the council’s corporate strategy prior to any future commitment.”
All of the 15 local authorities in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have to support the proposal if central government is to devolve its powers and enable a combined authority to be created.
If the Hampshire combined authority goes ahead then it could take on some new areas including:
– Local control over funding for skills, post-16 education, apprenticeships and lifelong learning
– More local control over national infrastructure spending on transport and housing
– Integration of health and social care
– Freedom to borrow against the forecast proceeds of local growth to support enabling infrastructure (this would include big ticket items like roads and schools)
– A comprehensive public sector ‘land bank’ making surplus NHS and Ministry of Defence land available for housing
– Ability to use public procurement and national business support budgets to support local business growth
– Greater retention of growth in business rates
Cllr Ferris Cowper, Leader of East Hampshire District Council, said: “I think we need to say that we are in this until we understand the effect it has on our community and we will not commit beyond that.
“This is an exploratory first step to see whether a combined authority would benefit East Hampshire. Combined authorities have good and bad points and the only way we can make an informed judgement is to stay in the scheme long enough to get the information we need.”
There are currently five ‘combined authorities’ in the country – these are in Manchester, Sheffield, West Yorkshire (Leeds), Liverpool and the North East. Of these, Manchester is the most-developed and includes 10 local authorities.
A combined authority is a corporate body which enables local authorities to work jointly to deliver improvements in things like economic development, regeneration and transport across a functional economic area. It does not replace, merge or take over the individual councils that together form it.