The council has been involved in detailed discussions about the potential devolution of powers from government to, firstly, Hampshire and Isle of Wight and more recently, South Hampshire and Isle of Wight (the Solent), since July 2015. A key outcome of the negotiations for the council is to secure the financial security of the Isle of Wight from any devolution deal.
Devolution discussions between the Solent partners and the government continued up until Monday (14 March), with a deal expected to be included in the budget announcements on Wednesday.
An announcement has now been postponed by the government although it is understood the support for the deal will be provided for in the budget. This will include additional funds for the Solent area to grow the economy, create jobs and improve access to housing. It will also give the area greater control of responsibilities which are currently run from Westminster, in areas of adult education and training, transport planning and management, and business support. It is also expected that local authority services would be funded from the retention of all the business rates generated in the area, which would help to alleviate the severe financial situation on the Island.
Councillor Jonathan Bacon said, “I am happy that the proposed deal, which is effectively the principles that will inform the production of a more detailed agreement, includes the basis to contribute towards our long-term aspirations for securing the financial sustainability of the Isle of Wight.
“Whilst I would have preferred that the proposals came with the offer of specific funding for the council, it does provide a mechanism for how that funding might be secured. I am extremely pleased that government has recognised that Full Council must have the time to formally consider the proposed deal, taking account of the views of the public, before formally committing to the deal. This is entirely consistent with the approach I have taken during all of my discussions about the deal.
“I do have a concern, however, that if the announcement is delayed for too long then opportunities provided in the deal might be lost or limited; and, would urge the government to progress with the announcement as quickly as possible.
“The issue is due to be considered by the Full Council on Wednesday (16 March), although given the position we are in, provided that the government makes no significant changes from the position we reached on Monday evening, than it is my view is that we should simply remain closely involved with developments to ensure that, in due course, we can bring proposals to Full Council demonstrating that the future financial sustainability of the Isle of Wight is assured.”