THERE are fears some councils in Hampshire could disappear and be replaced with a huge Solent authority.

Crunch talks will continue this week over the future of the region’s devolution bid after county council leader Roy Perry said he feared Hampshire was about to be “cut in half”.

Disagreements with Government ministers mean that instead of one new authority covering the whole of Hampshire, there may now be one set up for the Solent region alone.

And Cllr Perry says that could lead to councils in the area being swept away and replaced by one giant council instead, something which was not in the original bid to Government.

As reported, the county’s 15 council leaders signed a bid to seize control over how millions of pounds of Government funding are spent on things such as transport and skills.

They had intended to create a Combined Authority, which would see all existing councils remain as they are but a new body would be set up to decide how funds currently controlled by the Government are spent across the whole county.

However the bid was thrown into doubt last week after concerns over the number of new houses the Government wanted built as part of the bid, and their insistence on a Boris Johnson-style metro mayor to lead the new authority.

Most council leaders in Hampshire rejected the idea of a metro mayor, and it is understood that ministers are now talking to council leaders in southern Hampshire, who were seen to be less resistant to the idea, about a breakaway Solent authority.

Cllr Perry has written to the area’s MPs urging them to reject the plans to divide Hampshire in two.

The Solent authority area would cover Southampton, Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport, Havant, Eastleigh, East Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, while it is unclear what would happen to the rest of Hampshire’s councils, including Winchester, the New Forest and Test Valley.

He says he now fears that instead of a Combined Authority, the Government may instead look to create a giant unitary authority for the Solent, which would replace the current councils.

He said: “I think really what they are looking at is a unitary authority and that would be very costly and would lead to the abolition of councils such as Eastleigh and Fareham.

“Some say do we need the districts? I think you do.

“To cut the number of councillors representing an area, that would be a real diminution of democracy, having those councillors replaced by one elected mayor and 40 or 50 councillors [for the whole Solent].

“I think it would be better to keep the Combined Authority with all of the other councils.”

He also said he wanted a referendum to ask the public what they wanted to see, and said that the Government would “find a lot of opposition from Hampshire County Council” if plans to split Hampshire went ahead.

Cllr Perry said he would “surrender my opposition to the metro mayor to keep Hampshire together”, but said all of the councils now needed to “get their thinking caps on”.

It is understood the Government had been hoping to make an announcement on devolution to Hampshire in the Budget on March 16, but any agreement would need to be made a week before if it was to be included.