Finance

Hampshire County Council Budget 2012/13 questions and answers

What is the County Council's budget in 2012/13?

The County Council's net budget in 2012/13 is £712 million. Of this, £177 million comes from Government grant, and the rest is made up from council tax. In addition to this budgeted expenditure which the County Council is able to prioritise for spending in line with its strategy and plans there is a further £1,005 million of spending funded by income, and specific grants. The income is retained for reinvestment in the service to which it relates and specific grants are distributed for spending on specific services as directed by the Government after allowing for spending of £35 million funded from reserves. Total gross expenditure for 2012/13 is £1,752 million.

How have you managed to freeze council tax again?

This has been funded through an additional Government grant for councils that do not increase their council tax in 2012/13. We will receive a one-off sum from the Government equivalent to the amount received if council tax had increased by 2.5 per cent. This is welcome funding but the one-off nature of it means it will put pressure on the budget in future years. Town and parish councils do not receive this grant.

What will be the County Council's portion of the council tax for a Band D property?

Those living in a Band D property will pay £1,037.88 to the County Council in 2012/13 which is the same as in 2010/11 and 2011/12 and one of the lowest county council rates in England.

There is increasing disquiet among some sections of the community, notably pensioners, that they cannot afford to pay their council tax. What is the County Council doing to help them?

We're very much aware that those on low and fixed incomes - not just pensioners - are finding it very difficult to pay their council tax bills. We would urge those having difficulty paying their council tax to contact the County Council's Information Centres on 0845 603 5638 to see if they can claim financial assistance - many of those eligible are not doing so. More advice on sources of financial help, including claims for state benefits, can be found on DirectGov (www.direct.gov.uk/en/index.htm).

We will also continue to press Government to fund the County Council properly and recognise Hampshire’s public service needs in making decisions on grant distribution.

What progress have you made in adapting to the Government’s funding cuts?    

We are now halfway through our two year programme to reduce costs by £100 million. The £55 million of saving required in 2011/12 have already been secured and we are confident that the £45 million of savings required in 2012/13 will be realised.

Couldn't the County Council make further savings by employing fewer people?

Efficiencies and restructuring has lead to a reduction in the workforce in 2011/12 of around 1,200 fte posts or around 8% of the Council's staff. An estimated 228 fte post will be reduced in 2012/13, although the actual figures will be subject to the various restructuring and staff consultations processes which will be undertaken during the year. In overall terms, this means that approximately 1,400 staff will have left the Council as a result of the implementation of savings.

This has been done in a planned and controlled way by the use of recruitment freeze, redeployment of staff where possible and a successful voluntary redundancy scheme, which has been used to effectively and sensitively manage staff reductions at what is a very difficult time.

The County Council employs around 37,000 staff, many of which are part-time. The vast majority of these provide frontline services, such as teachers and social workers, directly delivering a range of important services to the community.

What sort of council tax increase can we expect in future years?

The Government Spending Review 2010 means we will have less money to run our services over the four years 2011/12 to 2014/15. We face a grant reduction of at least 40 per cent over this period and have already taken steps to cut costs. The Council has planned to meet the funding reductions and budget pressures it faces in two years instead of over the Government’s four year comprehensive spending review period. This was to reduce uncertainty, capture efficiencies early and put the Council in a strong position. The Spending Review also commits to providing authorities with additional funding in future years to “lock in” the benefits of the one year freeze and help ensure council taxpayers will not face subsequent excessive increases. It is assumed that the changes to council tax will be zero or low during this period.

Has the County Council consulted with the public, and what did they say?

A variety of forms and methods have been utilised to hear the views of the public, the employees and the unions on the efficiency programme and cost reduction proposals.

A formal workshop with Hampshire residents was run in November 2011 inviting opinions and attitudes to savings proposals, including how services may run in the future. Online comments were invited from 30 November to 19 December 2011. These was a wish for greater resources for litter, roads, activities for teenagers, childcare, Police and housing. Residents recognised that some services would need to be reorganised in order to make savings, including sharing services with other public sector organisations. Views on out-sourcing services to private contractors were generally negative, based on the group’s known experience. Residents welcomed more online services being developed, but stressed the importance of alternative support being made available, to ensure full accessibility for all residents.

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