Ahead of the Government’s announcement at the end of next month on future funding for the public sector, Hampshire County Council is already on the front foot – looking towards the end of the decade.
Members of the County Council’s Cabinet have today approved the savings proposals that will close the budget gap to 2017/18, and are already looking ahead at the prospects for the Medium Term Financial Strategy up to 2020.
“With Government needing to find billions more in savings to eliminate Britain’s deficit by 2019/2020, it’s widely expected that their Comprehensive Spending Review announcement on 25 November will set out more tough times ahead for the public sector”, said Councillor Roy Perry, Leader of Hampshire County Council. “Therefore, it’s essential we start preparing as early as possible for the financial picture ahead – taking into consideration the prospect of further likely cuts in our grant from Government, alongside the additional pressures we expect to face on our budgets, by the end of the decade.
“On-going demand for social care to address the complex needs of growing numbers of older people, and vulnerable children and adults in Hampshire, continues to be a major factor in our financial considerations. As we head towards 2020, we must also bear in mind the future cost implications of the national living wage when it’s introduced next year, particularly in the area of adult social care. With growing pupil numbers across Hampshire, the provision of secondary school places will also significantly influence our budget forecasts. Taking all these factors into account, it represents the greatest financial challenge we face yet, and coming at the end of a previous eight years of austerity in the public sector.”
Hampshire County Council’s grant from Government has more than halved in recent years and in response, the Authority began an unprecedented efficiency and change programme in 2008. To date, this approach has delivered £240 million of savings, it is transforming the way services are delivered and how the County Council works, and it has allowed Hampshire to maintain its share of Council Tax at the same level for six years in a row – at one of the lowest levels in the country.
Councillor Perry added: “Early and prudent financial planning is among Hampshire County Council’s strengths, and we are already planning now, how we could close the predicted funding gap in 2020. This could involve building on the new, modern technology solutions we are putting in place as part of our current efficiency and change programme; selling and trading services with other public sector partners to generate income; as well as opportunities that may emerge from devolution if Government gives the go ahead for more powers to come to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
“None of us can predict the future with any certainty, and indeed, not until the Government’s autumn statement which will cover a period, many of us hope will be the final years of austerity for the public sector. However, as we head towards 2020, it’s unlikely there will be any let up in the downward pressure on local government budgets that we have been seeing over the last decade. In the meantime, we have to stay focused on the first milestone the County Council must reach, which will be to secure anticipated savings of £98 million by 2017/2018.”
The key actions and activities that aim to deliver the £98 million of savings to 2017/18, and on which the County Council sought residents’ views this summer were approved by Cabinet at their meeting today (Monday 5 October). A final decision on the proposals will now be made by the full County Council on 22 October, followed by a number of further consultations with residents and stakeholders where necessary.