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Council Tax freeze on the cards, but changes to way some services delivered

Friday 10 January 2014

Over the next few weeks Hampshire County Council will publish details of how it plans to respond to the challenge of needing to continue to reduce its budget for years to come, while managing a significant increase in demand for services and continuing to freeze council tax.

The proposals to be considered by Executive Members will mainly deal with setting the 2014/15 budget but they will also look at proposals to make up the £93m savings needed by 2015/16 - equivalent to 12% of the budget, or £68 per resident.

Grant from Government has been cut by over 40% since 2010/11 and a tighter squeeze is expected beyond 2015/16. That's why the Council took early and decisive action to respond to these cuts and is in a strong position to meet its target of over £200m savings by 2015. It has already secured on-going savings of £130m and has reduced its workforce by around 1,700.

The budget is being prepared with the assumption that the Council will ease the pressure on hard-pressed households again by freezing its share of the Council Tax, keeping it at the same level for the fifth year running. At £1,037.88 for the average band D property, it would remain the lowest in the south east.

Council Leader Roy Perry said another Council Tax freeze is likely to lead to some further changes in the way services are delivered. "While it is inevitable that some services will need to reduce, we will be looking for investments that will deliver similar or better service levels with less money and unlock further efficiencies. Wherever possible, these will be about growth and further improvement, new ways to manage reducing funding and increasing demand.

"The fact remains that with less money and fewer staff we can't afford to deliver them in the same way. Twelve per cent is a considerable sum when you consider that 75 per cent of our budget is on services and supplies. The County Council is a complex and big business, covering over 300 different services, many of which are absolutely vital and there are other services that are discretionary so we have some very difficult decisions to consider and will take into account what the public have told us."

Around £75m of the shortfall has already been identified through progress on a number of 'workstreams' that include reducing external spend, joint working with health, joining up support functions with police and fire, increasing income and reducing office space by about a third.

Pressures on adults and children's social care continue. The Council spends around £1m every day on adult care. The volume of demand and the complexity of care needs is adding £10m to that bill every year and the number of people over 80 years old grows by about 1,000 every year in Hampshire. The long term strategy is to deliver a wider range of services and to focus on independent living for as long as possible to be able to support increasing numbers with dementia.

An increase in birth rates, the recession, better systems for recognising signs of abuse and neglect and the increased survival rate of children with complex disabilities have added to calls on the £982m Children's Services budget. The number of child protection plans has increased by 50% over the last two and a half years.

The Leader and Cabinet will make the final budget recommendations on 7 February and the Full Council will make the final decision on 20 February.

External auditors have identified the arrangements the county council has in place to secure value for money as sustainable, sound, low cost, robust and performing well.

Did you know?

The County Council's budgeted gross expenditure in 2013/14 is £1.8bn

The largest amount is spent on Children's Services (including schools) at £982m

Adult Social Care is the next biggest area of spend at £436m

Highways, transport and waste cost the Council £133m

Culture, community and other services add up to £126m

The Council Tax funds around £490m of this. The rest comes from Government grants, income and business rates.

The Council

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