The 4.99% council tax increase for 2017/18, approved at the meeting of the full County Council on 16 February, equates to a total of £1,133.10 for the year - roughly an extra £1 per week for the average Band D household. 3% of the total increase is particularly authorised by the Government to pay specifically for increases in the cost of funding social care. This will help towards the major pressures faced by the County Council from cuts in funding from Government, and Hampshire’s growing population of older and vulnerable adults. In fact, the increased cost of social care has put over £21 million on the county budget in 2017/18.
In delivering a balanced budget for 2017/18, the County Council’s council tax precept will still be lower in real terms than five years ago, after taking into account the rate of inflation over those years.
Commending the budget proposals for the financial year 2017/18, Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Roy Perry said: “All councils are facing significant financial challenges because of demand pressures, inflation and grant reductions by Government. In Hampshire, these pressures have left us needing to close a funding gap of £98 million by April this year. We are doing our level best to shield residents as far as possible from any impact, while protecting the quality of local services. We recognise the pressures on the NHS and that is one of the reasons we considered it important to put as much funding as possible into social care, to do our bit to help address the issue of ‘bed blocking’ in the NHS.
“Since the start of national austerity measures, we have worked diligently to stretch every penny – delivering savings, reinvesting in new, more efficient ways of working, making prudent use of our reserves, and delivering more with less. Residents have told us they support this approach, and it has proven effective – as by April this year, we will have delivered £340 million in savings since 2008. We have fewer buildings, fewer staff and are making greater use of new technology.
“Nevertheless, we still have an extremely difficult period ahead of us because by 2019, we face a further £140 million gap in our funding. After this time, Government support grants will cease altogether, leaving us to make some very tough decisions on which we will need to seek residents’ views.
“It is only because of our strong financial stewardship over many years with careful forward planning, and because of our size - enabling us to make the most of economies of scale, that we have been able to bear the brunt of all these pressures – and still be a position to invest in the future prosperity of the County.
“For example, this budget will see the County Council inject £520 million into the local economy, building plans and jobs over the next three years. Capital projects include creating 10,915 new primary and secondary school places; investing in Hampshire’s roads, bridges and flood defences; providing new transport schemes to link key employment areas; and grant funding to Hampshire organisations that bring economic and cultural benefits to the local economy.
“There are very few other local authorities that could continue to provide this significant scale of investment into the fabric of their local communities at this time, while ensuring residents continue to receive sustainable, high quality services - which remain among the best in the country.”
Watch the webcast of the meeting of the full County Council.