Hampshire and the Isle of Wight's devolution proposals have paved the way for what Chancellor George Osborne has called "the biggest transfer of power to our local government in living memory".
Of all the devolution bids submitted to government, the ambitious area led the way in pushing for full devolution of business rates. The concept has been well received as the Chancellor announced [5 October] it will be rolled out nationally, meaning councils across the country will benefit.
While many details remain to be confirmed by the government, the announcement comes as an early endorsement for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight's devolution bid, and further increases optimism around the plans as negotiations with central government begin in earnest.
Executive Leader of Fareham Borough Council, Cllr Sean Woodward, said: 'It's one of our biggest ideas, it's a great idea and I'm glad it's being rolled out national. At the moment there's no incentive for councils to attract businesses in.
'Councils collect the money, send it on to the government, who then redistribute it. With these changes and money staying locally, it will encourage councils to encourage growth in their area and know money raised will stay local.'
Full devolution of business rates is central to the proposals and would see councils giving up government grants in return, making them independent of Westminster and linking the prosperity of the public sector to the success of local business.
Following last week's announcement of a devolution deal for South Yorkshire, more successful areas' bids are expected to be named in the coming days, while it is hoped the Hampshire and the Isle of Wight deal will be announced later this year.
The area's devolution proposals are set out in a prospectus submitted to central government on behalf of 15 councils, two local enterprise partnerships and two national park authorities. The bid has also received the support of Hampshire Constabulary, Hampshire Fire & Rescue and NHS England Wessex.
Should the proposals be successful, the ambitious nature of the devolution deal and number of partners involved mean it could become a blueprint for cities and regions across the country to follow.
Hampshire and the Isle of Wight's proposals focus around four key themes: boosting business and skills for work; accelerating housing delivery; investing in infrastructure; and transforming public services.
Within these themes, projects will deliver on the government's productivity plan and rural productivity plan and ensure: more homes are built; more efficient local planning; further expansion of broadband; better mobile connectivity; improved transport connections; a more highly-skilled workforce with employers setting the skills agenda locally; higher employment and better wages.
Lee Todd - 023 9283 4086 or email@example.com
Tel: 01329 824518, fax: 01329 550576, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
For information, quotes or queries relating to specific local authorities please contact the relevant council's communications team.
The 15 local authorities, two local enterprise partnerships and two national park authorities which have jointly submitted the bid are:
Plans for homes include accelerated delivery of existing local plans, as well as an additional 500 homes a year in the priority home categories of rural affordable, low-cost starter, council new-build and extra care, by making use of exception sites including redundant public land.
Until it is confirmed what central government would award to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight it isn't possible to say what structure the devolved arrangement would take, but rather than creating a new layer of government the aim is to bring existing decision making powers from Whitehall down to a local level.
Furthermore, the partners will work to deepen devolution locally and seek opportunities for district and parish councils to take on extra functions and develop services with communities.
The overall aim is to make Hampshire and the Isle of Wight an even better place to live and work, by growing the economy in urban and rural areas without destroying what makes them special. This would include maintaining valued open spaces through measures such as greenbelt and working hard to bring local people more into the design of their own communities.