Positioning Hampshire's Culture and Recreation Services for the future
Monday, 13 January 2014
Hampshire County Council is looking carefully at how best to provide culture and recreation services while living within its means as it budgets to meet proposals for a 12% cut in spending needed by 2015.
Grant from Government has been cut by 43% over the last four years and the unprecedented financial challenges are set to remain for some time. Fortunately, early action by the Council to cut its costs mean it is in a strong position to meet its £200m plus savings target by 2015. It is also aiming for a freeze in Council Tax for the fourth year in a row to ease the pressure on residents.
Given the continuing pressures on the social care budgets, for services like museums, libraries and country parks, it will mean a sharp focus on maximising income and changing ways of working in and with communities to maintain viable services for the future.
The Council's Culture, Communities and Rural Affairs Select Committee will review a series of budget proposals on 20 January, before the Executive Member for Culture and Recreation considers recommendations to the Council's Cabinet in February.
A major proposal is the transformation of Hampshire's Country Parks to be financially self sufficient, thereby safeguarding them for future generations. The five year programme would see initial investment to provide a greater range of all year round facilities and activities attracting more people to the parks for more of the year and encourage return visits. Hampshire's country parks already contribute £2.6m to the local tourism industry. It's anticipated that the Council's investment would lever further funding from public and private sector partners, alongside bids to the Heritage Lottery Fund, to total more than £13million.
The Arts and Museums service is moving towards the formation of a Solent Cultural Trust in partnership with Winchester City Council, creating a new charitable company limited by guarantee to deliver arts, museums and heritage services. As a larger and charitable organisation, this would provide the potential to generate significant additional investment, safeguarding the collections for the future while at the same time attracting more visitors. Final decisions on the formation of the Trust will be made by the individual councils in March.
Proposals are being considered to re-provision several smaller libraries and to limit the number of underused stops in the mobile library service to make this more efficient, subject to consultation with library customers, staff and library partners. The recruitment of volunteers has played a key part in not only maintaining local elements of the library service, but also in countryside and museums; and further options around working with partners to co-locate and make the best use of public buildings, therefore sharing costs, are being developed.
Councillor Keith Chapman, Executive Member for Culture and Recreation at Hampshire County Council, said: "These proposals present a range of ways in which we can help Hampshire's cultural and recreation services remain viable in the long term.
"Over the past three years, Government grant to the Council has been cut by over 40%, and we are looking at further reductions beyond this year. It is, therefore, vital that we continue to explore ways in which we can continue many of these services. That is why we are proposing generating new revenue streams, increasing income where possible, and maximising the assets we have while continuing to examine more efficient and innovative ways of working."