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Council Considers Budget

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Hampshire News | Council Considers Budget | Andover & VillagesHampshire County Council’s Cabinet, at their next meeting on Monday 5 February, will consider plans firming up their careful budget strategy for 2018/19.

Back in October, the Leader and Cabinet members stressed the importance of retaining school crossing patrols, community transport, and Household Waste Recycling Centres and it now appears they will succeed in that.

Under the proposals to be considered at the meeting of the Cabinet, Executive Members will be asked to approve recommendations to balance the budget for the coming financial year – against a backdrop of increasing demand for social care from growing numbers of vulnerable children and adults, and rising inflation.

Leader of the County Council, Councillor Roy Perry said: “The first thing to say about this report is that we have succeeded in retaining those local services that we know residents value. That is a remarkable achievement in the current climate and is down to the careful and long term approach this Council takes to its financial planning on behalf of the residents of Hampshire.

“Since agreeing specific savings proposals at the end of last year to meet the further £140 million shortfall we face in our budget by April 2019, we have been working hard to explore alternative ways to deliver the savings in some areas. Consequently, I am very pleased that our proposals set out a way forward for us to continue to provide school crossing patrols, community transport, and Household Waste Recycling Centres. We are continuing to press Government to accept the longer term solutions we have in mind for these areas, which could involve introducing some nominal charges for use of services like Household Waste Recycling Centres. I put that point to the new Parliamentary Under Secretary for Local Government, Mr Rishi Sunak, when I met him on his first day in office. He told me he would consider it for the future, and that is an approach residents have told us they support. However, we have succeeded this year without having to go down that route.

“In the meantime, we have been able to identify extra revenue from areas such as our street lighting contract where we have overachieved on our savings, reinvestment of one-off Government grant for bus services, and the money Government now presumes all councils will generate from increasing their Council Tax precepts by a further 1% on last year.

“In Hampshire, the proposed overall increase would still maintain the Council Tax precept as one of the lowest in the country, and below the rate of inflation since 2010/11, while generating £5.7 million in 2018/19 and a further £11.9 million in 2019/20, if the increase is again approved. This funding would help support these specific services as well as contributing towards some of the pressures we are seeing from higher numbers of vulnerable children in need of our care.”

Cabinet will be asked to recommend to the County Council a total 5.99% increase in the Council Tax precept for Hampshire County Council’s element of the tax, for the financial year beginning 1 April 2018. This equates to an annual charge of £1,200.96 for a Band D property – or around £1.31 extra per week.

Councillor Perry added: “3% of the proposed overall 5.99% increase will specifically go towards the social care costs from Hampshire’s growing population of vulnerable adults and older people, and is our way of helping the NHS locally, by helping people get out of hospital and back into their own homes as soon as possible.

“Hampshire households will continue to receive some of the best public services in the country, outstripping neighbouring authorities. This is down to the scale and capacity of Hampshire County Council and our careful stewardship of taxpayers’ money over many years – a responsibility we take very seriously, and particularly so, at a time of immense financial pressure and growing demand for services.”

Alongside the revenue budget, Cabinet will also consider the capital budget for the coming financial year, and proposals for significant investment in Hampshire’s economy, jobs and the quality of the environment, totalling no less than £530 million over the next three years.

The funding in Hampshire’s infrastructure and long-term assets, up to 2020/21, includes proposed £146 million investment in new and extended school buildings to ensure there is a school place for every child in Hampshire – providing a big boost to the local economy and jobs while also securing the high quality education of the county’s children.

£97 million is set aside for major repairs, maintenance and improvements to schools and other public buildings.

£120 million has been earmarked for structural maintenance of roads and bridges, with £133 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 such as Market Place Romsey (Test Valley) and Horndean access improvements (Havant). The programme includes nine major infrastructure schemes totalling £108.6 million including Whitehill & Bordon integration works (East Hampshire); Stubbington Bypass (Fareham); Botley Bypass (Eastleigh); South West Basingstoke corridor improvements (Basingstoke & Deane); and BRT Eclipse Busway Phase II (Gosport).

Investment of £11 million is also proposed to protect against the risk of flooding and for coastal defence – with two major infrastructure schemes scheduled to begin in 2018/19 in Buckskin, Basingstoke and in Romsey.

The meeting of the Cabinet is at 10.30am on Monday 5 February 2018, 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 22 February.