Alton Town county councillor Andrew Joy has criticised Hampshire County Council’s decision to leave the Assembly of European Regions (AER) without fully investigating the potential benefits.

A report to council stated officers had not been able to “evidence any future direct benefits to the county council nor Hampshire businesses” and Hampshire’s executive agreed to write to the AER asking to leave its membership “at the earliest opportunity”.

However, Cllr Joy argued that the council failed to investigate the benefits that Hampshire has had and could have by remaining in the assembly.

The Alton Town councillor said: “It is more correct to say there’s no evidence presented because there haven’t been any particular efforts to investigate what those benefits are. This is an unfortunate gap of information in the report before you.”

Opportunities such as intelligence gathering, work within the wider Europe, trading partnerships or the Erasmus student exchange program were some of the benefits cited by Cllr Joy.

Hampshire was the only UK region still to remain a member of the AER.

The leader and executive member for Hampshire 2050 and corporate services, Rob Humby, said “the chief executive made it very clear they would not have put this paper forward if they hadn’t done the work” and added he was “satisfied” with the report.

Cllr Humby also thanked “the time and effort” of all the people who have represented Hampshire during the years in the AER.

What is the Assembly of European Regions (AER)?

The Assembly of European Regions (AER) is a pan-European organisation that represents the interests of its member regions at the European level. It was founded in 1985 and is headquartered in Strasbourg, France.

The AER aims to promote regional cooperation and development across Europe by facilitating the exchange of best practices, promoting economic growth, and providing a platform for regional voices to be heard in European policy-making.

The organisation also supports regional authorities in accessing European funding and developing international partnerships. The AER is made up of 12 interregional networks and has over 200 member regions from 35 countries.