More than 200 jobs face axe as county council plans cuts to adult care and libraries

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hampshire council job cuts
Hampshire County Council’s HQ in Winchester

MORE than 200 jobs could be lost and services hit by further cuts as Hampshire County Council bosses try to balance the books.

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Residents could be charged for services that are currently free, some libraries could close, council tax could be increased by 4% and a number of health services could be affected as HCC looks to save £80m by 2021, writes Maria Zaccaro of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The proposals show that £43.1m could be cut in the departments of adult social care, which could lose 120 full time jobs, and public health.

The authority said this would represent a reduction of less than 4% of care staff. But according to an official document the target “will challenge the department like never before and it is inevitable that there will be impacts on front-line services”.

A total of 223 jobs could be at risk across HCC, including up to 58 jobs in the library service sector and up to 25 within the economy, transport and environment department.

The Conservative-run county council said it will try to redeploy staff where possible but the scale of the challenge “inevitably means that there will be an impact on services”.

Concerns have been raised over the effect of the proposed cuts in the long term.

According to official documents published by HCC, almost 300 people with learning disabilities across the county could see a reduction of one-to-one and two-to-one support in a move that would save £2m.

New supported-living schemes could be developed to reduce the reliance on residential care for those with learning disabilities, physical disabilities or mental health conditions.

Kevin Gardner, chief executive at Solent Mind, the charity which provides services for people with mental health problems across the southern region, said the council is facing a huge task.

He added: “Reduced investment in prevention may help balance the books in the short term, but risks a need for more intensive and costly support in future years.”

There could also be a reduction in the support for families and children where one or both parents are alcohol or drug dependant, as well as for people affected by domestic abuse.

Services for children and young people moving from child to adult social care could also be affected.

Liberal Democrat Cllr David Harrison said he was concerned that some of the cuts will not achieve any real savings.

“Often if you fail to support vulnerable people it simply shunts costs elsewhere, such as the NHS. My Lib Dem colleagues and I will be looking carefully at the proposals,” he added.

Residents could also be charged to dispose of non-household wood waste such as fence panels and sheds, and they could also be asked to pay for parking at countryside sites where it is currently free.

Street lights could be switched off for longer and some libraries may close.

The authority said any job losses would be due to “a number of factors including the introduction of new ways of working and processes”. Most would be achieved through natural turnover, it added.

Cllr Keith House, the Lib Dem opposition leader at HCC, said: “Every job that’s lost reduces services to Hampshire residents. Conservative mismanagement of finance is costing Hampshire residents dear.”

In a document, HCC said its approach to managing down staff levels in “a planned and sensitive way through the use of managed recruitment, redeployment of staff where possible and exploring voluntary redundancy where appropriate will be continued”.

It also said HCC would ensure “appropriate consultation with staff and trade unions”.

The proposals were due to be discussed by ruling cabinet members this week and a final decision is expected to be made in November.

Some proposals may then be subject to more detailed consultation, HCC said.

Cllr Keith Mans, HCC leader, said: “These proposals will set out a range of options for how the county council could meet the significant funding gap it faces by April 2021 – which are the direct result of further reductions in our funding from government, rising costs and inflation, and growing demand for council services such as social care.

“While no final decisions are to be made until November 2019, there can be no doubt that without a long-term national strategy in place for the funding of adult social care, some difficult decisions lie ahead in the way we support our population.

“If Hampshire is to remain one of the strongest local authorities in the country, providing good value for money to the county’s taxpayers, and consistently delivering some of the best public services to Hampshire’s 1.3 million residents, we must receive the right level of financial support, on an ongoing and consistent basis, from government. “

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