Cuts to road maintenance and fewer books in libraries among proposals by Hampshire County Council

The authority says finances are under pressure.. Credit: ITV Meridian

One of the largest local authorities in the South East has proposed a number of cost-cutting measures as it works to shore up its finances.

Hampshire County Council, which is currently run by the Conservatives, says it faces a £132 million deficit from April 2025, and will have to cut costs to ensure its finances remain stable.

It currently provides services to Hampshire's 1.4 million residents, and says the current expenditure is not sustainable.

At a meeting of the full council yesterday, (Thursday 9 November) councillors approved Hampshire's financial strategy to 2025/26 - which 'paves the way' for the future.

Hampshire County Council looks after 5,500 miles of road as well as footpaths

At the start of 2024 residents will now be asked to consider 'specific proposals' which could see the services offered by the council, change.

These will see costs 'streamlined' and further increase efficiency, the authority said.

A significant number of services the council offers could change under the proposals, including Adult Social Care, Highways and libraries.

The full list of areas the council will consult on:

  • Proposals relating to changes to the way in which contributions towards non-residential social care costs are calculated 

  • Proposals relating to the Adult Social Care grants programme for voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations 

  • Proposals relating to grant funding provided to Hampshire Cultural Trust

  • A review and consolidation of existing one-off competitive grant schemes which provide grants to a range of community groups and organisations  

  • Proposals to reduce planned highways maintenance, with planned maintenance activity continuing at reduced levels until government funding allows it to be reinstated

  • Proposals to reduce the cost of the Highways winter service by reviewing current provision against statutory requirements and seeking innovations which can further reduce costs

  • Withdrawal of all remaining funding on non-statutory public transport provision

  • Proposals to develop criteria to identify countryside carparks where charging could be introduced

  • Proposals to extend the existing dimming and part-night streetlight switch off time in residential streets, where appropriate and based on local evidence

  • Proposal to review the School Crossing Patrol service to determine whether alternative safe measures could be put in place

  • Withdrawal of all funding for non-statutory Homelessness Support Services

  • Proposals to review the existing 24 Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRCs) service provision to inform a revised strategy for service delivery, taking account of best practice across the country and national guidance and enabling the provision of more modern, accessible sites. The revised service could include varying the opening hours of HWRCs, reducing the number of existing HWRCs, building new HWRCs or extending capacity of existing HWRCs, and/or introducing new charges for discretionary services at HWRCs

  • Proposals to reduce library stock levels, with a view to potentially reducing physical stock held in libraries 

Source: Hampshire County Council

Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Rob Humby said: “Making the most of the public’s money is our priority and we take very seriously our legal responsibility to ensure we deliver a balanced budget.

"This will become increasingly challenging after April 2025 as our costs keep rising, and demand continues to grow for vital local services like social care – part of a problem also facing many other local councils.

"We cannot wait for a long-term national remedy however, so it’s up to us to look at what we can do locally to start to close the budget gap in future years and ensure we can continue to deliver services that protect those children and adults who most need our help.  “Following the decision by the Full County Council today, we will soon invite people to consider more detailed options to help lower costs in future and what it might mean for them if we were to do things differently after April 2025.

"In our public consultation held this summer, changing services is something that residents told us they would be supportive of, and an example of this might include school crossing patrols for instance, where we are legally bound to ensure children get to school as safely as possible, but we are not required by law to do this through the dedicated provision of school crossing patrol officers.

"There may well be effective alternative ways of doing things, which could be identified in this area, and others.” 

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