Hampshire proposes budget increases to protect most vulnerable
Monday, 04 February 2013
Up to 35 new frontline child protection social workers will be recruited by Hampshire County Council as part of £6.5million additional investment in social care budgets for the next two years that will be considered this Friday, 8 February.
The extra funding is being proposed by the Leader of the County Council, Councillor Ken Thornber in the 2013/14 budget. Five new social work teams, costing £2.5million per year, would help ensure that the most vulnerable children are kept safe and well supported, amid increasing numbers of children coming into the Council'[s care, care leavers needing support and the rising costs of looking after children with complex disabilities.
Under the proposals, £4m will be added to the adult social care budget for the next two years to support the Council's transformation of elderly care and the transition from traditional residential care to Extra Care. The Council's ambitious £45million housing programme for older people is designed to help an ageing and increasingly frail population maintain independence and choice for longer and reduce the longer term care bill.
Cllr Thornber is also keen that Hampshire County Council continues to be at the forefront of developing and improving the county's economy and encouraging inward investment. He is proposing that an additional £200,000 per year, which will come from business rates, is used to support this strategy.
This is alongside plans previously announced by the Leader to create up to 1,000 apprenticeships within the County Council for young people over the next five years. A new Councillors' Environment Grant Scheme worth £780,000 to help councillors work together with local communities to tackle high priority schemes in their areas is also proposed.
These proposals come at a time when other local authorities are making significant cuts to balance their books. By taking early and decisive action to respond to the national deficit reduction programme, Hampshire County Council has already achieved savings of £100m over the last two years, putting it in a strong position to tackle future funding challenges expected to be even tougher after 2015/16. The plan is to freeze Council Tax so it will be at the same level for the fourth year running, which at £1,037.88 for Band D, is one of the lowest of county councils in England and this is despite the Council receiving one of the lowest grants per head of population from Government and a 43 per cent cut in grant over four years.
The County Council will be procuring more than half a billion pounds in services in 2013/14 to help generate jobs and safeguard others and will invest a similar amount in one of its biggest ever capital programmes at £543million over three years.
The early action has given Hampshire County Council time and capacity to plan for further austerity expected for local government beyond 2015/16. All services have had to find £9.4million in efficiency savings, or 2 per cent, of their budgets. The budget plans achieve this with no impact on frontline services.
The Council will continue to use the next 2 years to develop new ways of working, transforming the way some services are delivered to make them more sustainable, delivering quality services at lowest cost.
Executive Members have been considering their budgets over the last couple of weeks with the support of Select Committees and their recommendations, together with growth proposals from the Leader, will be presented to Cabinet on 8 February in a meeting that will be broadcast live on the web. Final recommendations will be made to the full County Council on 21 February.
Cllr Ken Thornber said: "What I am proposing in this budget is at least £6milllion growth all aimed at the most vulnerable children, young people and our ageing population. This is a result of the combined impact of this Council's early, decisive action to plan ahead for these difficult times, and the reserves we set aside to cushion Hampshire residents from the impact of the huge cuts in Government grant that we all knew were coming. It means that rather than being forced to consider deep cuts into services to make the budget balance, we are in a position to add further protection to these frontline services that protect our most vulnerable residents.
"I'm also pleased to be recommending a capital programme of more than half a billion pounds over the next three years which will generate business and employment expansion after a period of recession at a time when Hampshire is working towards economic recovery. This includes £160 million road maintenance and transport infrastructure and £165million on one of the biggest ever programmes to boost the number of school places in Hampshire to meet rising birth rates and more people moving into Hampshire. It will continue our programme of delivering faster broadband and plans for a district energy heating scheme in Winchester as well as money to improve and maintain community halls - all part of protecting and strengthening Hampshire's future."
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