‘Tough times’ as council sets budget

Cllr Roy Perry
Cllr Roy Perry
Have your say

MORE cutbacks are on the way as the county council looks to make a further £120m of savings by April 2019.

Hampshire County Council’s cabinet met yesterday to sign off its budget up to 2020.

Council leader Roy Perry said ‘delivering savings but also reinvesting in new ways of working’ would be crucial to address what he expects to be the authority’s greatest financial challenge yet.

The council has already made £340m of savings over the last eight years due to funding cuts from central government – an overall reduction in its budget of almost two thirds.

Cllr Perry praised the way the savings have been made.

He said: ‘I am proud that we have achieved these savings with minimum disruption to our most important services which remain among the very best in the country.’

Cllr Perry said the authority was ‘put to the test’ last year, when government changed how it funded local authorities – forcing it to close an additional £81.5m funding gap in its budget for 2016/17.

He said: ‘To offset this shortfall we were forced to increase council tax for the first time in six years and use up the majority of our reserves. With even deeper cuts expected in future, the challenge of finding further savings is going to be tough, and much harder than we have ever experienced before.’

On top of the cumulative annual savings total of £340m the council has to make by April 2017, it will need to cut another £120m by April 2019.

Cllr Perry said this would be achieved by ‘planning ahead, securing savings in advance, reinvesting in new and more efficient ways of working and making careful use of reserves to meet gaps in funding’.

He added: ‘It’s an approach which we know residents support.’

Cllr Perry said the council would hold public consultations, as well as developing new ways of working, such as expanding activities like the use of volunteers to mitigate the impact.