At the invitation of Clare Seek (Portsmouth Green Drinks coordinator), John Holland attended a meeting organised by environmental campaigners in Southampton with the purpose of getting more info on the Solent Deal and to discuss the implications for this on the environment, and talk about how they might like to respond to the consultation from that perspective.
Simon Letts (leader of Southampton City Council) gave a the history on devolution of power in the UK, and then some background into how we have arrived with current proposals to devolve certain powers from central Government to the combined authority encompassing Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight.
It would seem that, despite the mask of negotiation and public consultation, the Solent authorities will be offered an “off the peg” deal – much the same as is being offered to other applicants.
Hampshire County Council is not a partner to the deal; instead they are promoting an alternative structure. The non-unitary authorities (Havant, Fareham, Eastleigh, East Hants) are not partners either at this time since they are not eligible to join (yet).
On transport there is enthusiasm to introduce London-style bus franchising to reintroduce some kind of coordination between the bus operators plus the building of a Light Rapid Transit network linking the key centres. Cycling, walking and cycling, alas, receive very little (if any) focus.
The authorities have a very strong focus on economic growth and we feel this sells our region short. For example there is no mention of having a happy healthy people, along with clean soil, water and air. The Local Enterprise Partnership has a seat at the decision table, and that is a pretty undemocratic body. And a small point is that the document doesn’t allow for anyway in which the mayor can be removed during their 4 year term, which seems to be a strange omission.