At their meeting on Monday 16 October, Hampshire County Council’s Cabinet weighed up a wide range of options for closing the £140 million budget gap the Authority faces by April 2019.
Commenting following the meeting, County Council Leader, Councillor Roy Perry said: “The extent of the financial challenge that we continue to face is well-known. With our revenue support grant from Government soon coming to an end, together with rising inflation and significant increases in the numbers of elderly people, younger adults and children needing care - the pressures are mounting and we have some extremely hard decisions to make. I remain firmly of the view that our priority must continue to be supporting the growing numbers of vulnerable children and adults who rely on our care, and for whom we have a statutory responsibility – an approach residents have told us they also support. It is important to be aware that we are actually considering almost an £8 million increase in the funding allocated to children’s care.
“Achieving a further £140 million of savings, on top of the £340 million of spending reductions we have had to make since our funding from central Government began to reduce in 2008, will be our biggest challenge to date.
“I understand and sympathise with the pressure the Government faces in preventing the national debt spiralling out of control but as a consequence, local Government faces huge impacts.
“Of the £140million we have to save, only approximately £40 million comes from reduced grant, whilst £50 million is down to inflation, and a further £50 million comes from demographic pressure – from higher numbers of adults needing care, not just the elderly and more children in care. We continue to put Hampshire’s case to Government - communicating with Ministers and MPs to encourage them to take a fresh look at the ideas we have for easing some of these problems, through options such the introduction of nominal charges at our Household Waste Recycling Centres, for example. Local people are telling us they would prefer a nominal charge than to lose a convenient local service. I hope the Government might let us pilot some of these ideas.
“It’s crucial that we continue to leave no stone unturned and revisit all possible options for reducing spending in the future. At the County Cabinet meeting today, I proposed a motion that fellow councillors supported, asking County Council officers to look again into whether there are other ways of achieving some of their proposed economies - so that we can continue to support services such as Household Waste Recycling Centres, school crossing patrols and community transport in future, if possible.
“Hampshire’s town and parish councils also have a valuable part to play, which is why we are proposing that £0.5 million is made available for more joint initiatives with the County Council, to enable these local communities take a more active role in supporting some services. Officers had suggested a £250,000 fund, but Members doubled that to £500,000. We are confident many parishes and towns will rise to that challenge and we want to help them to help their local communities.
“By law, the County Council must deliver a balanced budget, and we are considering very carefully, the implications of all the proposals. Every County Councillor is alert to the extent of the financial outlook and it will be for all Members, when they meet at the start of November, to reconcile a sustainable way forward. Based on the outcome of that meeting, Hampshire County Council will prepare the Budget for determination, next February, including next year’s level of council tax.”