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Strong Financial Planning - Protecting Vital Services While Keeping Council Tax Low

  • Written by Lucy

council taxMembers of Hampshire County Council’s Cabinet will be asked to approve budget plans which aim to keep the Authority’s council tax among the lowest of all County Councils – while continuing with careful plans to protect the future of vital services for residents.

At a meeting on 3 February, Executive Members will be asked to approve recommendations to balance the budget for 2017/18 – prioritising funding for vulnerable children and adults, and on track to deliver £98 million of savings, as set out in proposals agreed in 2015.

Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Roy Perry said: “The County Council spends around £1.9 billion per annum on serving Hampshire’s 1.3 million residents – a responsibility which we take very seriously, and one that requires meticulous management of taxpayers’ money, and responsible planning for the future. Ever since national austerity measures began in 2008, we have applied a two-year financial planning strategy. This involves delivering significant savings early, and reinvesting them into more modern and efficient ways of working, while making careful use of reserves to meet gaps in funding, to protect services as far as possible. Residents have told us they support this approach, and to date, it has served us well - delivering £340 million in savings, in total, so far. We have kept Council Tax the lowest of all County Councils nationally, and delivered value for money for Hampshire taxpayers - sustaining some of the strongest essential services in the country. Up to last year, we had frozen Council Tax at the same level for five years.

“Over the next two years, the funding picture gets no better, and by April 2019, we will need to find a further £140 million in savings to balance our budget, on top of the £340 million we have already saved. Meanwhile, demand continues to go up in areas such as social care, especially for Hampshire’s growing older population - and Government now expects councils to increase Council Tax by a maximum of 6%, over the next three years, to specifically address these social care pressures. In Hampshire, we are proposing to accept the Government’s invitation – but bring forward the 6% increase over a two-year period instead. This would enable us to prudently use the money upfront, on a one-off basis, and help offset the major pressures we know are coming our way, especially in adult social care.”

This would mean that for 2017/18, there would be a 3% increase in County Council’s Council Tax precept to address the adult social care funding pressures, plus a 1.99% general increase – representing a 4.99% increase overall. However, the money generated would still not be enough to deal with the expected increases in demand for social care over the next few years.

Cabinet will be recommended to approve the charge by Hampshire County Council for the year beginning 1 April 2017, of £1,133.10 at Band D – or around £1 extra per week.

Councillor Perry added: “For roughly an extra £1 per week, or an additional £53.82 for the year 2017/18, the average Hampshire household at Band D, would continue to receive some of the best public services in the country. In my view, this is down to the Authority’s careful stewardship of public resources over many years, without which we could have been in a very different position now. Plus, Council Tax in Hampshire remains well below the rate of inflation of the last five years."

Alongside the revenue budget, discussions at Cabinet will also include the capital budget, and proposals for significant investment in Hampshire’s economy, building plans and jobs, totalling £520 million over the three years. The funding in Hampshire’s infrastructure and long-term assets, up to 2019/20 includes proposed £179 million investment in new and extended school buildings to provide a further 10,915 new primary and secondary school places. This investment will ensure a school place for every child in Hampshire, while boosting jobs and the local economy, and maintaining Hampshire’s high position in parental choice. £122 million is also set aside for major repairs, maintenance and improvements to schools and other public spaces.

£109 million has been earmarked for structural maintenance of roads and bridges, with £100 million scheduled for integrated transport schemes to improve access to key employment areas, and smaller local projects to improve safety and traffic flow on the roads. This includes seven major infrastructure schemes totalling £85 million.

The meeting of the Cabinet is at 10.30am on 3 February 2017, which will be broadcast live via the County Council’s webpages. Final decisions on the budget will be made by the full County Council on 16 February.