EAST Hampshire District Council members have agreed formally to start ending the partnership with Havant Borough Council, as announced earlier this month by council leader Richard Millard.

At an extraordinary cabinet meeting, followed by a full council meeting, the price of the divorce was not revealed.

Beginning to merge the councils’ workforces – there are now about 70 joint employees – came at a “significant cost”, revealed papers from 2020 when the 12-year partnership was formalised.

Since September 2020 at least £160,000 has been spent by the two councils on consultants and aligning their constitutions.

The two meetings last Thursday were prefaced by a private briefing at which Cllr Millard answered questions from Liberal Democrat group leader Steve Hunt and Alton Independent Socialists group leader Paula Langley. This led to Cllr Hunt publicly assuring Cllr Millard his group would vote to split from Havant.

Cllr Hunt said: “We will support the motion to start the process and collect the information needed to inform us, and then we will vote on the next stage.”

Liberal Democrat Cllr Trevor Maroney said: “Bearing in mind the cost so far, will the council be using consultants to advise on this?”

Cllr Millard replied: “Yes, there are costs, but I would be surprised if we used external consultants. I want us to ‘grow’ out of this.”

Cllr Langley said: “I am pleased to hear we will grow out of this, not cut our way out.”

All 43 councillors voted for the split. A business case justifying it will now be prepared for members to vote on. East Hampshire has not revealed the cost of the Shaping Our Future programme agreed in September 2020 to move the councils even closer.