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Conservative administration's £80m budget cuts approved by Hampshire County Council

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BUDGET cuts of £80m have been voted through by Hampshire County Council.

The authority met in full last week to vote on the Conservative administration's spending plans for the next two years, writes David George of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

HCC has made cuts across almost all departments to make up for the £80m deficit, with some of the council’s reserves also used.

Energy prices look set to increase by £693 per year for the average household
Energy prices look set to increase by £693 per year for the average household

Councillors from across the political spectrum blamed this on receiving less support from the government, but appeared to disagree on the severity of the problem.

HCC leader Cllr Keith Mans, from Brockenhurst, said: "In general terms we have slightly less money than we had bargained for, because the white paper on social care has cost us money rather than given us more.

"Given the funding pressures and shortfalls, balancing the budget has been a challenging task. Without a long-term sustainable funding solution to the growth in social care costs, the county council is simply not financially equipped.

"We urgently need a solution from the government.

"We have long campaigned for more autonomy to be given to county councils to enable greater local control over local finances and identify opportunities to generate income – particularly as the gulf widens between demand for social care and the amount of money now available to deliver it."

Overall, HCC will spend £2.4bn on services, with public health the only area safe from budget cuts.

The council is also sitting on reserves of around £754m, but has been warned it faces a budget deficit of £237m by 2025/26.

Liberal Democrat opposition leader Cllr Keith House said: "The Conservatives talk as if the world is going wonderfully, but we know that it isn’t.

"We have to acknowledge that our county finances are in a deep, dark hole, and we don’t know how to pull ourselves out.

"At the end of the day, it is the people of Hampshire who will have to pay for reduced and aborted services.

"It’s young people who will miss out on life chances, and elderly people who will have a more stressful and troublesome time. This budget is not sustainable."

Cllr Kim Taylor, Labour member for Basingstoke Central, added: "Year after year we all sit here and try to make our part of the world a better place, and every year we are thwarted by the lack of financial support from government.

"It makes me feel a sense of resignation and hopelessness."

The budget was voted through with 46 votes in favour, 16 against and two abstentions.

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