Hampshire County Council approves £80m budget cuts as financial position deemed 'unsustainable'

BUDGET cuts of £80m have been voted through by the county council.

Thursday, 17th February 2022, 4:03 pm

Hampshire County Council met in full to debate and vote on the budget for the next two years.

The county council has made cuts across almost all departments to make up for the £80m deficit, with some of the council's reserves also used.

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Hampshire County Council. Picture: David George

Councillors from across the political spectrum have blamed this on getting less support from the Conservative government - but appeared to disagree on the severity of the problem itself.

Leader of Hampshire County Council, Cllr Keith Mans, said: ‘In general terms we have slightly less money than we had bargained for, because the white paper on social care has cost us money rather than given us more.

‘Given the funding pressures and shortfalls, balancing the budget has been a challenging task. Without a long-term sustainable funding solution to the growth in social care costs, the county council is simply not financially equipped.

‘We urgently need a solution from the government.

‘We have long campaigned for more autonomy to be given to county councils to enable greater local control over local finances and identify opportunities to generate income – particularly as the gulf widens between demand for social care and the amount of money now available to deliver it.’

Overall, the county council will spend £2.4bn on services, with public health the only area safe from budget cuts.

The council is also sitting on reserves of around £754m, but has been warned it faces a budget deficit of £237m by 2025/26.

Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr Keith House, said: ‘The Conservatives talk as if the world is going wonderfully, but we know that it isn't. We have to acknowledge that our county finances are in a deep, dark hole, and we don't know how to pull ourselves out.

‘At the end of the day, it is the people of Hampshire who will have to pay for reduced and aborted services.

‘It’s young people who will miss out on life chances, and elderly people who will have a more stressful and troublesome time. This budget is not sustainable.’

Labour member for Basingstoke Central, Cllr Kim Taylor, added: 'Year after year we all sit here and try to make our part of the world a better place, and every year we are thwarted by the lack of financial support from government.

‘It makes me feel a sense of resignation and hopelessness.’

The budget was voted through with 46 votes in favour, 16 against and two abstentions.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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