Hampshire County Council on 'journey to bankruptcy' under current funding model

A LACK of funding means Hampshire County Council is on a ‘journey to bankruptcy’, councillors have warned.

Monday, 6th December 2021, 2:43 pm

The Conservative-led authority has written to MPs across Hampshire, urging them to back a call for more sustainable funding. Some 26 other authorities have joined the county council in asking for better funding.

It comes as the council prepares to cut £80m from its budget by April 2023, slashing spending for transport, children’s services and more.

At tomorrow’s cabinet meeting in Winchester, Conservatives will discuss the situation and how best to progress.

Hampshire County Council. Picture: David George

But Liberal Democrat opposition spokesman for economy, transport and environment, Cllr Martin Tod, fears the situation is only going to get worse.

He said: ‘The current financial model simply isn’t sustainable – we’re basically on a journey to bankruptcy.

‘The situation is dire, and everyone is cutting back to the bare bones of what the council is responsible for.

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‘In the past, councils had their own money to do their own thing; now everything is done through bidding to central government, which doesn’t guarantee anything.

‘What that means is the people who know the area best can’t make the decisions.’

Cllr Tod added he agrees with the Conservatives in wanting a long-term financial agreement with the government as council tax ‘isn’t the answer’.

The government has delayed the Fair Funding Review, which has raised concerns among politicians.

The councils that have jointly written to the government have proposed a short-term spending ‘floor’ which would at least give authorities an indication of the minimum amount of funding they would receive each year.

Hampshire council leader Keith Mans, said: ‘For a long time, shire councils like Hampshire have received the short straw when it comes to funding from central government, and with another delay to government’s Fair Funding Review, we face a further three-year funding drought for those authorities at the bottom end of the funding table.

‘A more equitable funding formula is needed in future, particularly in the face of ever growing demands for social care and the added financial pressures from Covid-19.

‘Clearly a short-term fix is not ideal, but it would provide much-needed funding that would enable the system to carry on for a little longer.

‘Without extra financial support, those authorities with low core spending power will increasingly struggle to provide essential and valued services to their local communities.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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