Hampshire County council eyes care homes, school transport and arts for the axe in £80m budget blackhole

CARE homes, school transport for disabled children, arts and entertainment are all on a council’s chopping block.

Sunday, 26th September 2021, 1:11 pm
Liz Fairhurst

Hampshire County Council has unveiled initial plans to plug a £80m budget black hole by 2023.

Some £40.6m will be cut from the adult services and public health budget, with a further £20m slashed from children's services and £3.3m from culture and communities.

The cuts, while deemed necessary by top councillors, will have a devastating impact on the lives of people and businesses across the county.

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Liberal Democrat spokesman for adult services and public health, Cllr David Harrison, has warned that even care homes are no longer safe.

He said: 'We are genuinely facing the prospect of care homes closing in the future, purely because they are not financially viable.

'If a care home isn't full then there's an issue, because we can't prop them up so much any more - and everything with the council comes down to money now.

'All the Conservative councillors have been voting in favour of these cuts, while everyone else is voting against them. We are heading towards a crisis, plain and simple.'

The council's executive lead member for adult services and public health, Cllr Liz Fairhurst, said: 'Each successive round of savings is more difficult to find, particularly with increasing demand for support, rising cost pressures, alongside the potential long-term impact of Covid-19 and the financial challenges being experienced by NHS organisations which have a direct bearing on social care.

'The recent announcement by government may go some way to mitigating the huge financial outgoing that local authorities face in delivering social care, but the impact will not be felt for some time and does not negate the need for stringent savings in the short-term.'

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In the council's proposed culture and community cuts, £550,000 will be taken from the library service budget and £915,000 from business services.

A further £515,000 will be cut from countryside and outdoor centres, which includes country parks.

These plans were debated at the culture and communities select committee earlier this week.

The committee's chairman, Conservative Cllr Rob Mocatta, said: 'Our culture has struggled during lockdown and it needs all the support we can give it.

'What we are proposing is to try and generate more revenue, focusing on that so we don't have to make such deep cuts.

'Funding events and projects is an absolute requirement, but money is tighter than ever and it all boils down to that.'

Liberal Democrat spokesman for culture and communities, Cllr Peter Chegwyn, said: ‘The culture sector is only just starting to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, and the county council goes and kicks it in the teeth.

'With the grants budget basically disappearing many events and projects simply will not exist - they cannot function without it.

'The bottom line now is that everything has to be self-sustainable, but arts and entertainment doesn't work like that. Now more than ever we should be supporting the culture sector, not decimating it.'

As previously reported by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Hampshire County Council is also proposing to cut £2.5m from the home-to-school transport fund, which gets disabled youngsters to and from school each day.

All budget proposals must be agreed by the respective executive councillors, before going through cabinet and subsequently the full council.