Hampshire Local Government consultation inconclusive

Hampshire Local Government Consultation Results

The results of the Hampshire Local Government consultation have been published. The consultation was to seek our views on how Hampshire might meet its budget challenges. The results are inconclusive, or as Hampshire County Council (HCC) likes to say, ‘nuanced’.

The Hampshire Local Government consultation took three forms. First, there was the open consultation that we talked about here with 3,354 respondents. Second, there was a telephone survey of a representative sample of 1,504 Hampshire residents. Finally, HCC carried out three ‘deliberative workshops’ with 90 Hampshire residents.

HCC have published a detailed report here. A paper to be discussed at Cabinet on 14 November is published here. The results of the consultations are shown in the graphic above.

Analysis

Interestingly, in the open consultation, there was quite strong support (38%) for a single combined authority, but very strong opposition to an elected mayor (61%). However, Central Government insist that combined authorities cannot go ahead without an elected mayor. There was slightly more support (39%) for a single unitary authority across Hampshire. There was quite strong opposition (33%) to any new unitary authority and even stronger opposition to any new combined authority (40%).

Overall, we are in a mess, because the most favoured option of maintaining the status quo is not an option because of budget pressures. It is clear there is no consensus on the way forward.

Hart Council fights for survival in Hampshire local government reorganisation

Hart District Council fights for survival in Hampshire local government reorganisation

Hart District Council is fighting for its very survival in the Hampshire Local Government reorganisation. Hart has sent a desperate letter and copy of a leaflet to the Hart District Town and Parish Councils setting out the case for its proposals for a ‘Heart of Hampshire’ Combined Authority. This is in stark contrast to the competing Unitary Authority proposal from Hampshire County Council. Both proposals have been put forward in the Hampshire County Council consultation which closes on 20 September 2016.

Hart’s proposal would lead to the introduction of an additional tier of local Government and a directly elected mayor along with a claimed extra £30m per year to be split amongst the participating authorities including Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Hart District Council, New Forest District Council, Rushmoor Borough Council, Test Valley Borough Council and Winchester City Council. Hampshire County Council and the M3 Enterprise LEP would also be involved. In return the COmbined Authority would gain extra powers although it isn’t clear just what these extra powers would be.

Hampshire County are proposing a Unitary Authority approach which would mean the abolition of district councils like Hart and Hampshire County Council and their replacement by new Unitary Councils who would provide all services. These proposals would lead to savings of up to £40m in senior management and councillor costs, optimising services and reduced property costs.

More detail on the pros and cons can be found here and here.

Hart’s letter to the town and parish councils and a copy of the leaflet to be sent to all households can be found on the downloads below.

Hart leaflet to residents
Hart letter to parishes

Hart have set our their own devolution web page here and Hampshire County Council have set up a local government reorganisation web page here.

 

Hampshire launches consultation on local government reorganisation

Hampshire County Council Consultation Option G Five unitary Councils

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.

What does the Hampshire devolution bunfight mean for Hart District?

Heart of Hampshire devolution proposals

There is a tremendous battle raging over the future of local government in Hampshire. There are competing visions for how Hampshire should be governed being put forward by both Hampshire County Council and the Heart of Hampshire local authorities, with no clear view on what solution will be adopted.

The row started after proposals were submitted to Government by Southampton, Portsmouth, Isle of Wight, Fareham, Gosport, Havant, Eastleigh and East Hampshire for a ‘Solent Combined Authority’. Apparently, discussions on this approach are being progressed with Government.

This leaves open the question of how the rest of Hampshire will be governed. The remaining Hampshire local authorities comprising Basingstoke and Deane, Winchester, Rushmoor, New Forest, and Test Valley, together with the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership are exploring the potential for a combined authority and devolution deal with Government, tentatively called ‘The Heart of Hampshire Combined Authority’. Details of these proposals can be found here and here. The benefits of this proposal are claimed to include:

  • Responsibility for a multiyear consolidated and devolved local transport budget.
  • Powers over strategic planning and housing, including responsibility for creating a spatial planning framework for the Heart of Hampshire, supporting the duty to co-operate requirements, and to chair the Heart of Hampshire Joint Investment and Assets Board.
  • The ability to franchise bus services, subject to necessary legislation and local consultation.
  • Control of a new additional £30 million a year funding allocation over 30 years, to be invested to the Heart of Hampshire Single Investment Fund, to boost growth.
  • Responsibility for developing a Strategic Infrastructure Delivery Plan which will identify the infrastructure needed to support the delivery of new homes and improve transport and broadband connectivity across the area.
  • Responsibility for the 19+ Adult Education Budget, which will be devolved from academic year 2018/19

On the one hand, these look like reasonable proposals, however, they appear to simply add a new tier of Government in that Hampshire County Council remains in place with a reduced set of responsibilities and a new elected mayor of the Heart of Hampshire is put in place alongside all of the existing local authorities. This doesn’t appear to create any savings either by reducing the number of senior management posts, consolidating the number of councillors or entering into shared service arrangements to make savings in the back office.

Hampshire County Council (HCC) is fighting back and has produced its own set of options contained in a report by Deloitte.

Hampshire County Council favoured devolution option - unitary council.

HCC clearly favours an option where the remaining authorities are consolidated into a giant unitary county authority, with the existing unitary authorities of Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight (IoW) remaining in place. It is said this option generates £389.6m of net savings over a 10 year period from a reduction in senior management positions, reducing the number of councillors, reducing corporate services, optimising service delivery and savings in property costs. These proposals would effectively mean the abolition of most of the existing local authorities. These proposals do not apparently include a new mayor and so would miss out on the additional central Government funding on offer for new combined authorities.

Again, these proposals have some merit, but such a large county structure may effectively disenfranchise large numbers of voters and make it more difficult effectively to hold the new council to account.

A further option of 4 unitary councils (Option G) is also considered  appears to have more accountability with centres of local Government closer to the people and this option generates net savings of £250.5m over 10 years.

HCC does not endorse the Solent and Heart of Hampshire proposals and the leaders of the Hampshire boroughs are ‘disappointed’ that HCC have pressed ahead with the Deloitte report without informing or consulting them.

It is clear there is a massive bunfight going on and it is difficult to see how these competing ideas will play out. However, HCC is calling for wide consultation across the county on how we should be governed. It might be a good idea to try and take the best of each of the competing ideas, by adopting the Option G approach in the HCC report and moving to “combined authorities” with elected mayors and financial benefits from Government. The new combined authorities may even be able to share back office functions and make even greater savings.

We will keep you updated as we learn more, particularly if we can see how it will impact the Hart Local Plan.