Talk of a new Hampshire and Isle of Wight authority running a host of services might have left Parish Councils thinking, ‘what’s going to happen to us?’ Well, the simple answer, I think, is very little. The services that parish councils run will remain in their hands, it’s really the big ticket services like education and social care that will be going to the new authority, if it happens. Nevertheless there could be a devolution revolution on a street near you very soon offering momentous changes to how public services are run here in Hampshire and will affect everybody.
Now you might be thinking ‘devolution? Isn’t that something to do with Scotland?’ but actually it’s something on the cards for the whole country and I think it is great news. The UK is one of the most centrally governed advanced countries in the world and many people, not just Scottish Nationalists, now have a real issue with decisions handed down from the ‘Westminster Elite’ to all parts of the country without too much consultation. In response, up and down the land, councils, cities and even entire regions are asking central government to give them more responsibility, and greater powers, to manage and provide services.
Here in Hampshire there are exciting plans to agree to form a combined authority made up of all 11 district councils, the county council and the three unitary authorities, Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight. This devolution deal will see many powers – we don’t know which yet – pushed down en masse from Whitehall to Hampshire County Council and then further devolved to individual districts and cities to suit their structures and budget. The net result will be greater administrative and economic efficiency, so less money wasted, and better public services for everyone in Hampshire, plus fewer diktats from Whitehall about how things should be done. Local people, who know their location best, will be in charge of services.
I very much look forward to more detailed proposals being published in the next few months.