Hampshire County Council (HCC) has launched a consultation on reorganising local Government in the county. This has arisen out central Government’s desire to reduce local Government budgets and devolve more powers to local areas. This has resulted in a bunfight between Hampshire County Council and the District Councils that we reported on here.
This consultation asks us to make a broad choice between supporting the “Combined Authority” option most favoured by the District Councils and the “Unitary Authority” option favoured by Hampshire County Council. Each broad choice has a number of sub-options. The Combined Authority approach would include establishing an extra tier of Local Government and led by one or more directly elected mayors. The Unitary Authority approach would involve the dissolution of the existing Hampshire County and District Councils, being replaced by one or more new Councils responsible for all services. It appears as though this latter approach will save more money, but unless the unitary authorities cover smaller areas, potentially at the risk of remoteness and reduced accountability.
The documents are quite large and complex. The impact on local planning and potential housing allocations is not covered in any detail in any of the documents as far as we can see. Consequently, We Heart Hart doesn’t have very strong views on the “Combined Authority” or the “Unitary Authority” approaches. However, we have an instinctive dislike of complexity and more tiers of Government and therefore would slightly favour a unitary authority approach, but using “Option G” in the Deloitte Report commissioned by HCC, shown in the image above.
This subject was covered at the recent Hart District Council meeting, with leader, Stephen Parker, making clear that there was still conflict on this issues between the County and the Districts:
Yesterday Hampshire County Council launched a consultation, based on a desktop report commissioned from Deloitte covering the financial effects of unitary status, covering both unitarisation and devolution, as well as a metro mayor. Sadly the Deloitte report only covered unitary councils, and paid little attention to other issues such as service quality and democratic accountability. The failure of Hampshire County Council to pause the consultation to take advantage of a report commissioned by the other Hampshire councils from Price Waterhouse Coopers to consider the issues not addressed in the Deloitte report will compromise the outputs from the consultation. This has caused some problems in the relationship with the districts, and I with colleagues from the Heart of Hampshire group of district councils will be meeting tomorrow with the Leader and Deputy Leader of HCC to seek to normalise the relationship, whilst recognising the issues around the deficient consultation.
The consultation is open until 20 September 2016.
The dedicated web page for the consultation can be found here.
The executive summary of the proposals can be found here.
The more detailed consultation information pack can be found here.
The consultation response form can be found here.
We would urge everyone to engage with this issue and respond to the consultation.