Council tax frozen but flood helpers face axe

Floods in Hambledon
Floods in Hambledon
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COMMUNITY safety officers who have played a vital role in helping flood-hit villages have been scrapped.

Hampshire County Council agreed £93m of cuts to services in its budget at yesterday’s full council meeting in Winchester.

The county’s council tax precept will be frozen for a fifth year, despite Hampshire being awarded the third lowest government grant in the country.

And £36m will be spent on repairing the county’s pot-holed roads over three years, following the floods.

One of the most controversial moves was to abolish the 36 Accredited Community Safety Officer (ACSOs) roles, which will give the council a saving of £1.5m.

ACSOs have been helping flood-hit residents in Hambledon, but also act as a link between young people in the community and have been credited with cutting anti-social behaviour in some parts of the county.

The Liberal Democrats put forwarded an amended budget which would have saved the ACSOs but this was rejected.

Councillor Keith House, leader of the Liberal Democrats, made a plea not to axe them.

He said: ‘ACSOs give front-line support across many Hampshire communities and prevent crime rather than solve crime.

‘By simply saying we’re handing this responsibility back over to the police is not good enough.’

But council leader Roy Perry said they had to prioritise funding of statutory services. ‘We have to concentrate on services that if we did not provide there would be no alternative,’ he said.

He added: ‘I’m very proud of the ACSO service.

‘I’m full of admiration, particularly for the work they have been doing over the last month in Hambledon.

‘It’s good if we have one problem at a time but unfortunately we have to deal with a number of problems.

‘We have to address the financial situation of the county council and £90m pressure on our budget.’

He said ACSOs were brought in before PCSOs and they were no longer needed.

He suggested countryside rangers could be trained to take on part of the role.

Local authorities can still fund them if they wish.