Councils hit with 'dramatic' budget cuts by Whitehall

Curtis Long, 27, of Southway, Gosport has been jailed for 58 months after he was caught in possession of �40k of class A drugs. PHOTO: Hampshire police

Gosport drug dealer caught with £40k of heroin and cocaine in his car is jailed

Fareham and Gosport residents could face front-line service cuts after Hampshire County Council admitted it couldn't protect anything other than education.

The county will lose 30m-35m per year on average from April 2011-March 2015 because of government finance demands made yesterday.

Secretary of State for communities and local government Eric Pickles announced a 26 per cent cut in payments from his department to councils over the period.

Hampshire County Council last year received 216.1m from the government. It will get 185.2m next year, a cut of almost 31m.

Its leader, Tory Councillor Ken Thornber, said: 'This dramatic reduction is as bad as we expected. We have been preparing for this. We will look at the detail of our provisional settlement to see exactly how the figure breaks down. Once that's complete we'll have a better idea of the impact on our budget.'

Cllr Thornber previously told The News: 'Education is protected and we don't want to make any cuts in children's care. But we must look at everything else, including even adults' social care, because these are huge cuts.'

The council has already promised to reduce senior management costs by 25 per cent, cut around 2m from its libraries budget, continue a recruitment freeze and shaved 35,000 from its councillor wage bill by merging four cabinet posts into two. It is also entering partnership deals with Dorset County Council and other authorities to cut costs and share services.

In Gosport, where the borough council's government funding will drop from 7m this year, to 5.14m next year, its Tory leader, Councillor Mark Hook, predicted services would be hit.

Cllr Hook said: 'We'll protect rubbish collection and maintenance, but we must look at services including pest control and our grant to the Citizen's Advice Bureau. We don't want to cut them and we're consulting the public, but something has to be done.'

Fareham Borough Council faces a drop from 6.4m this year to 4.6m next.

Its leader, Tory Councillor Sean Woodward said: 'It's a huge drop. We raise our own revenue and have made cost-cutting measures, like sharing environmental health with Gosport Borough Council. There will be no service cuts this year, but it's an enormous amount to have lost.'

Meanwhile Havant Borough Council will lose 2.4m in next year's settlement, including 1m lost as it hands over the running of the region's concessionary bus pass scheme to Hampshire County Council.

It has already merged several services with East Hampshire District Council to save cash.

And Portsmouth City Council is looking at measures including a recruitment freeze, a crackdown on sickness pay and sharing buildings and providing services in partnership with Southampton City Council and Isle of Wight Council.