Closing the budget gap - Hampshire County Council Cabinet considers options to address £80 million revenue shortfall by April 2023

At their meeting today (Tuesday 12 October), Hampshire County Council’s Cabinet has weighed up a range of proposed options for closing a budget gap of at least £80 million faced by the Authority by April 2023

Oct 12 2021

Following Cabinet members’ consideration of proposals for individual service areas last month, together with Hampshire residents’ responses to this summer’s Balancing the Budget consultation on options for addressing the anticipated revenue shortfall and the potential impacts, the Cabinet as a whole, has now approved the Authority’s medium term financial strategy and financial savings programme to 2023. Recommendations will now go before the full County Council on 4 November for a final decision, following which some proposals may then be subject to further, more detailed consultation.
 
Commenting following the meeting, County Council Leader, Councillor Keith Mans said: “The extent of the financial challenges that we continue to address is well-known. Councils across England are grappling with the same budget constraints from continued pressure on local government funding and increasing demand for core public services such as social care. Together with longer-term spending commitments and losses in income caused by COVID-19, and demand in areas such as children’s social care now that lockdown restrictions have been lifted, it means that we now have some extremely hard decisions to make. 
 
“These choices are made all the more difficult in the absence of a multi-year financial settlement from central Government. As such, we must assume a revenue budget shortfall of at least £80 million by April 2023. We hope that central Government’s upcoming Spending Review announcement for 2021 will take a more long-term perspective, over three years - up to 2024/25, which would give us more scope to plan more effectively and look ahead over a longer timescale for future years. However, until then, our financial forecasts remain limited to the current one-year Spending Review timetable, up to March 2022, which restricts our ability to plan ahead as comprehensively as we would like.
 
“The fact of the matter remains, that to deliver a balanced budget, we must achieve further savings of at least £80 million by April 2023, which comes on top of the £0.6 billion of spending reductions we have already had to make since our funding from central Government began to reduce in 2008. 
 
“The County Council has a strong track record of financial stewardship alongside high performance, and we continue to apply these strengths to the ongoing budget pressures. Our ambition in this round is to achieve these two-year savings by managing inflation and demand pressures across services, rather than reducing overall spending in key areas. This will also enable us to consider additional spending in the budget of a further £7 million in the maintenance of Hampshire’s roads, over £3 million per annum to boost children’s social care and investing up to £22 million in our capital programme to support the social care needs of younger adults and those leaving hospital. 
 
“Nonetheless, to deliver these outcomes, we face our biggest challenge to date – and regardless of Government’s recent announcement of adult social care reforms, which do not address at all the burgeoning longer-term costs from continued growing demand within this sector. Government must take action to address the national issue of growth in adults’ and children’s social care, as it’s simply not possible to keep reducing services to meet growth costs in others – a concern also shared by residents responding in our recent ‘Balancing the Budget’ public consultation. We continue to lobby Government in this regard, alongside councils across the country. 
 
“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 forecast 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.”