Rising to the challenge of reduced funding
A message from Councillor Ken Thornber CBE, Leader of Hampshire County Council
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Last winter, I wrote about the challenges we faced in light of reductions in government funding and the increasing demand for our care services.
We have risen to these challenges and are well on our way to making the necessary expenditure reductions of £55 million to meet this year’s budget gap. To achieve this, our focus has been to reduce our running costs and modernise the way services are delivered.
The fact that we have made these reductions and built on the achievements in 2009/10, reported in the performance article on pages 14 and 15, shows our commitment to delivering modern, safe, high quality public services, at least cost to the taxpayer. For example, we have seen our services for the most vulnerable children in our county achieve outstanding ratings from Ofsted, pupils in our schools have achieved even better exam results and we have expanded our work to improve the condition and resilience of Hampshire’s roads.
However, the story does not end there. The public spending cuts cover four years. To reduce uncertainty for those who use and deliver our services, and to put the County Council in a stronger position for the future, we are looking to reduce our costs over a shorter timescale. The work we have already done puts us in a strong starting position for 2012/13 when we need to reduce our expenditure by a further £45 million.
We will continue to focus on cutting running costs, not only by keeping down day-to-day expenses in all areas, such as making better use of our buildings, but also by reshaping our corporate services and making the most of opportunities to sell and share services. Our recruitment freeze will add to the savings already made on our pay bill, following a 25% reduction in senior managers (including two chief officer posts) and help us to keep compulsory redundancies to a minimum.
Our reserves cannot be used to pay recurring monthly service bills, which would be like using personal savings to meet rising fuel or food bills. They are one-off sums and once they are used they are gone. However we will continue to use every pound of those reserves to ease the pressure on services and the public purse in these tough times. We will use them to fund the cost of change and initiatives that will create longer term recurring savings.
We cannot secure the level of reductions without making significant changes to the way services are provided. By modernising services we can ensure they are more affordable and better meet the changing needs of residents now and in the future. This is especially important for those vulnerable residents most in need of our support - our investment in Extra Care facilities for older residents is a prime example of this – find out more on pages 16 and 17.