Residents’ needs drive joined-up review of local government in Hampshire

Press Release: 09/06/2016

A joined-up review to make sure that local government in Hampshire meets the needs of its residents and businesses in the 21st century has been launched by Winchester City Council and the district and unitary councils in the county.

Leading advisor PwC has been appointed to carry out a detailed study working with the Department of Communities and Local Government, the 14 authorities, residents and businesses and local organisations to identify options for local government, including unitary and combined authorities.

The move comes in response to Hampshire County Council announcing that it is planning to consult residents across the county on a unitary option for Hampshire after rejecting the idea of either joining a combined authority for the Heart of Hampshire or a Solent Combined Authority without the support of Hampshire residents.

The study has been commissioned on behalf of Winchester City Council, Hart, New Forest, Rushmoor and Test Valley councils by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council. In addition, support has been pledged by the Solent Combined Authority group of councils.

PwC, which has worked extensively with councils on analysing options for local government reform, will begin an evidence-based, independent assessment of all options this week.

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.

The County Council has expressed strong interest in a county-wide unitary authority, serving 1.3 million residents. But the other councils in Hampshire have agreed that a comprehensive review of all the options, starting with residents’ needs and improving services, is needed, as well as focusing on value and cost efficiency. The councils are appealing for Hampshire County Council to join them to make the review as comprehensive as possible rather than rushing into a consultation with residents based on research on a limited range of options.

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

“We are commissioning a complementary piece of work to that already carried out by the County Council, to look at what residents need, want and expect from local government in today’s world. It is important that we consider how to balance local preferences in decision-making against the need to make the best use of limited resources in today’s economic reality.”

The current system of County Council and district councils in Hampshire was set up over 40 years ago and the review aims to look at the best system of local government to meet residents’ and local business needs today. It will work up options to ensure residents have a real understanding on all of the possibilities and the implications."

Cllr Godfrey added:

“We need proper consideration of all the facts and possibilities, starting with real engagement with residents and other key partners, organisations and groups to build a picture of what is required of local government in our area. It is important that we do not rush into quick assessments on something that will last for years and will have a significant impact on quality of life for each of us.”

Richard Parker, partner at PwC, said:

"We will work with Basingstoke and Deane, Hart, New Forest, Rushmoor, Test Valley and Winchester councils and other authorities to examine options to help deliver the most effective and efficient form of local government for the area. Our study will be independent and evidence-based, providing a critical juncture in the development of a new structure for local government in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. We are looking to engage widely with all key stakeholders and partners to ensure their views are carefully considered in our work.”

ENDS

Note to editors:

• The Heart of Hampshire includes the area of the county covered by Basingstoke and Deane, Hart, New Forest, Rushmoor, Test Valley and Winchester councils.

• The Solent Combined Authority includes the areas of Southampton, Portsmouth, Isle of Wight, Fareham, Gosport, Havant, Eastleigh and East Hampshire.