Hampshire County Council has launched today (7 June 2021), a consultation to ask people for their views on options to help the Authority to prepare its budgets through to April 2024 – in response to continuing pressures on local government funding and increasing demand for core public services.
To date, by planning ahead and using its reserves carefully, the County Council has successfully found ways to deliver services differently and more efficiently, securing recurring savings of £560 million over the past 13 years.
However, continuing to deliver important local services during the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside existing pressures from over a decade of national funding reductions and increased demand for services, such as social care for growing numbers of vulnerable people, has placed an additional burden on the County Council’s financial resilience.
Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Keith Mans said: “Our strong track record of careful financial planning, and prudent use of reserves has meant that the County Council is in a better position than most and has greatly assisted our ability to manage during COVID-19.
Nevertheless, the absence of a multi-year funding settlement from the Government means that we continue to face a budget shortfall of at least £80 million over the next two years (2022/23 and 2023/24).
Councils across England are facing the same budgetary pressures.
This requires us to make more tough decisions about what the County Council can and cannot provide in future.
“Opportunities for reducing costs are getting harder to find as we have already reduced our spending by over £0.5 billion in just over a decade whilst demand for County Council services has continued to rise.
Our financial strategy so far has involved targeting resources on those who need them most, such as vulnerable children and adults, planning ahead and securing savings early.
This approach has helped us to invest in new, more efficient ways of working.
The careful use of reserves has helped to address gaps in funding, as well as some of our COVID pressures, and enabled the County Council to meet the cost of higher demand in areas such as social care and looking after the vital infrastructure of the county, including our roads.
However, we must consider further ways of making ends meet, at the same time as protecting vital services for the people of Hampshire.”
The Balancing the Budget consultation presents a range of options that could contribute towards balancing the budget. These might involve:
- Introducing and increasing charges for some services;
- Lobbying central Government for legislative change;
- Generating additional income;
- Using the County Council’s reserves;
- Reducing and changing services;
- Increasing Council Tax;
- Changing local government arrangements in Hampshire.
- The consultation runs from midday today, Monday 7 June 2021, to 11:59pm on 18 July 2021.
Councillor Mans added: “We would like to hear from as many Hampshire residents and stakeholders as possible to help us understand and consider the potential impact of any changes proposed.
The views submitted through this consultation will be collated and used to inform discussions at Executive Member, Select Committee, Cabinet and Council budget proposal meetings during 2021.
No prior decisions have been made regarding the proposals.
Decisions relating to specific services will be subject to further, more detailed, consultation.”
People can take part in the consultation via the online response form on the webpage: www.hants.gov.uk/balancingthebudget which will be live from midday on Monday 7 June.
There is also a full information pack about the proposals in the consultation on this webpage.
Paper copies can be requested by emailing email@example.com or calling 0300 555 1375.
Additionally, the consultation documents are available from local Hampshire libraries.
You can also email your response directly to firstname.lastname@example.org