Winchester calls for clear thinking on future of local government in Hampshire

Press Release: 01/08/2016

The Leader of Winchester City Council believes a review of local government in Hampshire commissioned by district councils offers the best prospect for clear information on which to base choices and thorough public involvement.

Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council has commissioned a review of options for change by PwC in partnership with Hart, New Forest, Rushmoor, Test Valley and Winchester councils.

The review includes the Solent Combined Authority group of councils: Southampton, Portsmouth, Gosport, East Hants, Eastleigh, Fareham, Havant and the Isle of Wight.

Cllr Stephen Godfrey, the Leader of Winchester City Council, said:

PwC, who have worked extensively with councils on analysing options for local government reform, began an evidence-based, independent assessment of all options in June 2016.

This is aimed at expanding on the more limited focus of work already done by Hampshire County Council, which concentrated on reducing costs rather than improving services for residents. Once that work is finished, it should provide a sound basis for consulting the people of Hampshire about what form of local government they want to see in the future.

Cllr Godfrey added that Winchester City Council considers the consultation launched by Hampshire County Council does not present enough information about the choices open to local people.

It does not allow residents to make an informed judgement on options for local government reorganisation, he said.

He said a proposal for a county-wide unitary may be presented as ‘more efficient’ but could lead to less responsive service provision, fewer local representatives involved in decision-making and much higher council tax.

Cllr Godfrey said:

In recent times the City Council has in some cases been able to step in to pick up the pieces following County cuts. This was the case, for example, with the community alarm service: more than 1,500 Winchester residents will continue to benefit from a 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-service under a new contract now funded by Winchester City Council.

But the ‘mega unitary’ proposed by the County Council could see the financial resources that Winchester currently uses to do this taken away and used to solve problems elsewhere in the county.