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portsmouthsouthamptonisleofwightcouncillogosPlans for a Solent Combined Authority have received public backing with the majority of respondents to a consultation supporting the proposals.

More than 2,500 people took part in a public consultation and 71% of those responding were in favour of moving power and funding for the economy, transport and jobs from central government to groups of local councils working together.

The same proportion supported the idea of the Isle of Wight Council, Portsmouth City Council, Southampton City Council and the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership working closer together.

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When asked about specific things a combined authority should get powers for, 75% were in favour of more local powers for support for businesses to grow, closely followed by 74% of people backing extra powers for transport. New responsibilities for skills and employment were favoured by 73% and 70% agree with more local powers for housing and infrastructure planning.

When asked about the best way to secure and manage new powers and funding, the majority of people agreed with having a combined authority headed by a directly elected mayor.

As well as the public survey an engagement process with businesses ran simultaneously and gained similar support.

Cllr Donna Jones, Leader of Portsmouth City Council, said:

“It is fantastic to know people back the principles behind our plans for a combined authority. The Solent Combined Authority would secure £30m a year every year for the next 30 years, so that’s £900m 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.”

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jonathonbaconCllr Jonathan Bacon, Leader of the Isle of Wight Council, said:

“The transfer of powers and funding to the Solent area, through a combined authority will offer another vehicle to help us achieve our ambitions to create a prosperous and sustainable Isle of Wight. I am, therefore, pleased that the consultation exercise has recognised that a Combined Authority is a mechanism with the potential to unlock funding and support for the Island and the wider combined authority area.

“This is another step in the process but we still need the government to confirm the detail of its final devolution offer to the Solent area.  In order for that to be received, we need the mechanism of combined authority to be agreed, so that when the right deal is offered it can be accepted. Without approval for the combined authority we cannot go further forward. The decisions we need to take over the next few weeks, informed by the outcomes of the consultation, will decide whether we are ready and able to consider and deliver a devolution offer which has massive potential for the betterment of the Island and the wider Solent area.

“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.”

The proposed authority would take on responsibility for services currently managed by central government and receive £900m of new funding over the next 30 years. This will allow decisions to be made locally rather than in Westminster, with a focus on driving economic growth, improving infrastructure and transport links and delivering homes in the region.

The combined authority would not replace any of the councils involved, each council would be an equal member and be represented on its board which could be led by a directly elected mayor.

The plans will now go to the full council meetings for the 3 councils involved, ahead of each cabinet making a decision on submitting a formal bid to government.

The first full council meeting will be Portsmouth’s on 11th October, with both Southampton and the Isle of Wight meetings taking place on 19th October.

Subject to the consultation results a final decision on submitting an application to government could be made by the end of October.

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