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Council focuses on keeping tax low and front line services secure

Thursday, 05 December 2013

With Government austerity set to continue for several years to come and funding shrinking even further, building future capacity has never been more important, Hampshire County Council Leader Roy Perry said today.

"The local government landscape is changing rapidly and while other councils are reducing capacity and buying in services from private companies or other local authorities, Hampshire's approach is different. I've already said that we are not planning any major outsourcing of services and we plan to stay in business and protect jobs as far as possible, providing the best services we can, while keeping the Council Tax low.

"That means building and strengthening our own in house services, and to do that we've tapped into expert knowledge and private industry experience and ensured we have applied independent scrutiny. The public sector needs to learn from the private sector.

"Our approach to change, our drive to deliver better outcomes with less money, our focus on reform and an innovative approach to partnerships is delivering results that mean we are now on target to deliver our £200m savings target Those savings are largely forced on us because we are losing 40 per cent of our grant from central government. Our success in making those savings is one of the reasons why Hampshire is in a position to continue to make significant investments into services such as £45million into care for the elderly and £165million into new, high quality school places. We also intend to grow the £100m trading income we receive from selling services to other organisations, all of which helps protect frontline services further."

Councillor Perry has responded to a question submitted to the Full County Council meeting on 28 November about the Council's use of consultants.

He said:"We've used external advisors from the private sector to work alongside us to strengthen our commercial capacity. Our aim is to create growth, while our staff develop the commercial skills and expertise needed for the future, keeping services at the leading edge in terms of cost and quality, within our £1.7bn budget. Consultants have played a part in our success in reducing the cost of our corporate support functions such as the arrangements for sharing corporate services with Hampshire Constabulary and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, which only last week were heralded by the Justice Minister.

"Much of the spend is on buying-in knowledge and skills we don't hold internally which has helped to secure a significant increase in Government funding for capital schemes, like buildings and transport. Our total capital programme is currently one of the largest ever at around £550m. Peaks in demand to deliver these capital schemes in limited time frames means that it is much more cost-effective, in these tough economic times, to bring in the specialised technical, engineering and professional skills when they are needed. We have already reduced our senior management by 25 per cent, and saved £46m on our pay bill per year.

"We always seek to strike the right balance between cost, expected results and value for money and we can say with confidence that this is being achieved. Part of the proof of that success is that Hampshire County Council levies the lowest council tax of any county in the south east region."

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