Tory council leader joins cross-party call for more government funding

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Brockenhurst Cllr Keith Mans spoke out along with Labour Cllr Chris Hammond

THE new leader of Hampshire County Council has joined a cross-party call to government for a “significant injection of funding” after a report showed authorities across the country could be facing a £51.8bn funding black hole over the next six years.

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Cllr Keith Mans, the Brockenhurst councillor who recently took the helm at the Conservative-run HCC, joined the Labour leader of Southampton City Council to ask for certainty over future funding, writes Maria Zaccaro of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The intervention comes after a report published by the County Councils Network (CCN) revealed that only “bare minimum” services will be possible in the future unless extra funding is provided.

CCN, which represents county and unitary authorities across the country, warned that in some cases even yearly council tax rises and making services more efficient will not be enough to plug the gap.

The government said councils will have access to £46.4bn this year, but civic chiefs are now calling for clarity.

Cllr Mans said he was at the CCN network when the new findings were announced and he stressed the need for funding, especially for social care and infrastructure.

“I support the findings of the review. It is time we see central government recognise the needs of local government, particularly for the services that have been delegated to us to provide for central government,” he added.

In a statement, HCC said it fully backs the CCN in calling for a “significant injection of funding” into the system in the government’s spending review expected later this year.

Southampton City Council’s Labour leader Cllr Chris Hammond said his authority has had £136.4m cut over the past seven years.

“After eight years of unnecessary austerity, it’s about time that we’re given some certainty about funding. Nearly one year after the Prime Minister promised that austerity is over, we’re still told to make more cuts. Sadly, we’ll be living with the consequences for generations to come,” he said.

As reported by the A&T, HCC has an £80m funding gap which it aims to tackle by 2021.

CCN chair Cllr Paul Carter said: “If government does not provide additional funding for councils over the medium term, many local authorities will resort to providing the bare minimum, with many vital services all but disappearing, particularly preventative services.

“Even these draconian cuts won’t be enough for many well-run councils to balance the books and it will leave our finances in disarray with many of us struggling to deliver even the basic level of local services.”

A government spokesperson said: “Local authorities will have access to £46.4bn this year, a real terms increase that will strengthen services, support local communities and help councils meet the needs of their residents.

“The government will be looking at funding for services as part of the spending review.”

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