County Council Cabinet to consider future plans to close £132m budget gap by April 2025

Hampshire County Council’s Cabinet will next week have to consider a package of budget measures which could start to see all non-essential spending being withdrawn after April 2025, and the local authority limiting future spending on just the delivery of minimum service levels, required by the law

Oct 2 2023

In the face of one of the biggest budget shortfalls in its history, the County Council must close a £132 million funding gap by April 2025 - the result of years of underfunding of local government services by central Government, rising costs from inflation and growing demand for core services like social care for vulnerable children and adults.  

Last month, individual Cabinet Members considered a raft of proposed tactics to balance the books by the financial year 2025/26, which the whole Cabinet must review in full on 10 October in order to decide the way forward. The Full County Council will then make a final decision on proposals, at its meeting on 9 November, following which some options may then be subject to further, more detailed public consultation in the New Year.  

Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Rob Humby said: “For a long time now, we’ve been very clear about the huge budget pressures facing the County Council by April 2025, and like many local authorities nationally, our budgets are stretched to breaking point. Since the start of national austerity, the County Council has had to reduce its spending by over £0.6bn, but year-on-year, our costs have continued to rise dramatically because of major pressures that are outside of our control. We have always taken a planned and measured approach to setting a balanced budget over a two-year period which has served the County Council well for many years and this is a strategy we will continue to adopt – something residents told us in our public consultation this summer, they agree with.  

“We know that council tax increases alone are not enough to plug the gap, and with no sign of Government stepping in to provide a short-term budget lifeline or long-term sustainable funding solution to councils like Hampshire, we must take action now and plan to meet the budget shortfall ourselves. The solution will require a combination of measures, including the prospect of changing local services and reducing to minimum levels what can be delivered to Hampshire’s 1.4 million residents after April 2025.  

“With less funding available and more people needing our help, it’s vital that we look to maximise the impact of our limited resources so that they continue to help people who are most in need.” 
Measures being recommended to Cabinet next week are the result of each service delivered by the County Council having been scrutinised through the lens of what is the statutory minimum provision. By taking this approach, it could deliver crucial savings in future years and ensure the Local Authority can continue to prioritise public funds to essential core areas, and services which the most vulnerable Hampshire residents rely on – such as protecting children from harm, social care for older people, and supporting adults and children with disabilities and additional needs.  

Councillor Humby added: “At this stage, it is very difficult to define what a statutory minimum level of services might look like as so many of the services we provide are required by law, but others are non-statutory, discretionary or ‘choose to use’ services, which depend on income to be generated from them so that they are self-sustaining over the long term. It is further complicated by the fact that we are told by Government what services we must provide but not how we should do this, or at what levels. 

“While our finances are stable until 2025/26, our budget projections tell a different story after the next two years, when we could then start to see a move towards all non-essential spending being withdrawn, and inevitably some job losses across the County Council. As we have done in previous savings programmes during more than a decade of national austerity, we would endeavour to do all we can to secure any staff reductions through natural turnover, limiting the need for redundancies wherever possible.  

“Feedback from our public consultation this summer inviting residents’ views on how we meet the major financial pressures we face by April 2025 made it clear that the public expect the Government to fund local services properly. This is something I have been lobbying for ever since I became Leader, and I will continue to do so as we head towards 2025/26. I am committed to keep standing up for the people of Hampshire and I will campaign for as long as it takes to secure the change that local government so desperately needs. But we can’t sit back and assume that such major changes will happen any time soon, so we need to act now, before we reach the financial cliff edge, continue to uphold our legal duties, and ensure that the most vulnerable residents in our communities remain our priority.  

“These are incredibly difficult decisions that lie ahead, and we will be tackling this significant financial task as sensitively as we can.”