September sees the start of the County Council’s budget planning timetable – with Hampshire residents’ responses to this summer’s Balancing the Budget consultation at the heart of proposals being considered by individual Cabinet members over the coming weeks.
Recommendations will then go to the Cabinet as a whole, in October, before a final decision in November by the full County Council. Further to ratification by Cabinet and Full Council, some proposals may then be subject to further, more detailed consultation.
Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Keith Mans said: “These proposals will set out a range of options for how the County Council could meet the significant funding gap it faces by April 2021 – which are the direct result of further reductions in our funding from Government, rising costs and inflation, and growing demand for council services such as social care - from an ageing population and higher numbers of vulnerable children needing care.
“After more than a decade of cost reductions which have delivered savings of almost £0.5 billion to date, understandably it’s becoming more and more difficult to find opportunities for making deeper savings and deciding what the County Council can and cannot do in the future.
“Analysis of the consultation responses has shown that residents continue to support our financial strategy which includes targeting resources to support the most vulnerable children and adults in our communities, and using reserves carefully to help address funding gaps to meet one-off demand pressures in areas such as social care. However, the feedback collected has also confirmed that a number of different approaches are likely to still be needed to meet the scale of the challenge ahead.”
Consequently, over the coming weeks, Executive Members will be asked to consider a range of savings options that seek to maximise income generation opportunities and minimise reductions and changes to local services in line with the consultation feedback. The scale of the challenge inevitably means that there will be an impact on services in order to achieve the £80 million savings that are needed.
Cabinet and the full County Council will then consider these proposals alongside other options to balance the budget, which include:
* continuing with the County Council’s financial strategy, which includes:
* targeting resources on the most vulnerable adults and children
* using reserves carefully to help meet one-off demand pressures
* lobbying central Government for legislative change to enable charging for some services;
* options for raising Council Tax by up to 4%;
* considering further opportunities for working with other authorities in Hampshire to reduce costs.
Councillor Mans added: “We’ve been consistently clear with Government that they need to be fairer in their funding of local councils. For decades, councils in shire counties have been left behind those in major cities and urban areas – receiving up to 60% less funding.
“The Government’s announcement, in the last few days, of more than £3.5 billion for council services nationally for one year, is positive, but it’s unlikely to make much difference to our overall medium term budget position – albeit it provides some much needed breathing-space in the short term to help meet the increasing demand pressures in social care services for next year.
“Consequently, we can’t afford to take our foot off the pedal with our longer-term financial plans. If Hampshire is to remain one of the strongest local authorities in the country, providing good value for money to the county’s taxpayers, and consistently delivering some of the best public services to Hampshire’s 1.3 million residents, we must receive the right level of financial support, on an ongoing and consistent basis, from Government. We will be making further representations to feed into the three-year Spending Review due to take place next year.”