The Island’s MP yesterday attended two meetings in Parliament about the prospects of devolution for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight area. The meetings were called by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight All Party Parliamentary Group – of which Andrew Turner is Vice-Chairman. Council leaders were invited to attend the second meeting in the afternoon and Cllr. Dave Stewart attended as the new Leader of the Isle of Wight Council.
The Island’s MP said:
“Although there were a range of opinions in the room about the way forward, there was widespread opposition to the ‘Solent Deal’, which involved three unitary authorities, Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. Many MPs and Council Leaders clearly thought that the deal had been ‘cobbled together’, with little consideration for the consequences on neighbouring authorities. For my part I opposed the deal because it would impose additional responsibilities on the Isle of Wight Council, with not an extra penny guaranteed for the Island. Those who claimed that it would solve the Island’s funding problems are either misleading, misled or mistaken. The proposed governance model was also a simple majority – the two cities have much more in common with each other than they do the rural Isle of Wight – so our interests could easily have been ignored. I’m glad to say that the Solent Deal is dead in the water – there will be further discussions on the way forward over the coming months.”
Cllr Dave Stewart added:
“The Conservatives and many Isle of Wight councillors were against the Solent Deal, but yesterday I was surprised to see how widespread the opposition to it was. The idea of a mayor running the proposed new authority covering the two cities and the Island received very short shrift from many MPs. I am appalled that the Independent Group – who wanted to bulldoze this through despite losing a vote in full Council, and opposition even within their own Executive, spent so much time, money and energy fighting for something that was never going to happen. That was very apparent to me yesterday. The Solent Deal in its current form is just not right and will not go ahead; that was accepted by everybody in the room. What we are now doing is looking at how we can work together to generate the benefits of economic growth across the whole region.”