Hampshire in strong position to tackle further funding challenges
Thursday, 20 December 2012
Responding to the provisional local government grant settlement, Hampshire County Council Leader Ken Thornber, said:
"We are most disappointed that although there was an announcement in Parliament yesterday we still don't have the full detailed information from Government. We knew that the outlook for local government finance was likely to continue to be difficult and the headline figures from the Government show that once again Hampshire will have the biggest reduction in grant compared to other county councils. We are disappointed in the further grant reductions, but we were expecting this and we are confident that our forward planning will stand us in good stead to tackle the financial challenges over the next two years, although there are tough times ahead for the next decade."
"The announcement shows just how significant the national deficit reduction programme is and the challenges we face in continuing to deliver quality services at lowest cost to Hampshire's council tax payers.
"However, I can report that the early action taken by Hampshire County Council to transform services and create new opportunities for joint working and business development in response to this tough financial climate has helped protect front-line resources and delivered our target of £100million savings over the last two years. This foresight and planning ahead has put Hampshire in a very strong position to tackle the further Government grant reductions from 2015/16 at a time when most other councils will be trying to balance their books for the next two years. "
The budget for 2013/14, which will be agreed on 21 February 2013 by the County Council, will be prepared on the assumption that the Council will accept a council tax freeze grant of £5.3m this year (which is equivalent to a one per cent increase in council tax) which means council tax would be frozen at the same level for four years running. The County Council continues to receive one of the lowest grants per head of population from Government, yet has one of the lowest council taxes and some of the highest performing services, with Ofsted reporting that children's services in Hampshire perform excellently and with Hampshire in the top national quartile for the number of schools that are good or outstanding.
Councillor Thornber said: "Despite the cost reductions we have had to make, Hampshire County Council has continued to make extra budgetary provision for older people, vulnerable children, the disabled and other disadvantaged groups and in the coming year I will want to see both Adults and Children's social care get more money to cope with a huge increase in child protection plans and an ageing population whose care needs are becoming more complex."
The growing shortfall in social care funding is a matter that Councillor Thornber wrote to Government about last week following a motion agreed by the full Council. He said the Council had made unprecedented investment in prevention and early intervention to build community capacity, alongside the development of older people's specialist housing through Extra Care, with up to £45M capital spending committed over the next few years.
The Council has maintained and expanded its capital programme, maintaining assets and delivering new ones. It adds up to £550m over the next 3 years, with £220m due to be completed or started this year, which is good news for Hampshire's economy.
Cllr Thornber said that the early action taken to release savings also put Hampshire in a strong position to lay the ground for future investment and ensure that services are designed on a sustainable basis. At the November meeting of the full County Council meeting he outlined a multimillion pound package of investment in infrastructure and jobs. "Our focus now is not just on driving out further efficiencies but on economic growth and improvement in Hampshire, while continuing to deliver quality services at lowest cost to the taxpayer as we prepare for the challenges beyond 2015." he said.