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Call for more government funding by Hampshire County Council leader Keith Mans

LOCAL authorities could reach a financial tipping point without further support from the government, a top councillor has warned.

The leader of Hampshire County Council, Cllr Keith Mans, has called for better government support as the council prepares to make further funding cuts, writes David George of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Currently, the council is looking to cut £6.8m from the public health budget, following a consultation that ended on Monday.

Cllr Keith Mans has been re-elected as leader of Hampshire County Council (47657253)
Cllr Keith Mans has been re-elected as leader of Hampshire County Council (47657253)

These cuts are set to affect substance misuse treatment, sexual health and the Smokefree Hampshire campaign.

Last year, a further £1.76m was cut through a series of library closures, including Lyndhurst and Blackfield. Overall HCC says it needs to fill a budget shortfall of £80m over two years.

Cllr Mans, who represents Brockenhurst, said: "The funding doesn’t keep pace with demand, so you have to move money across from elsewhere.

"This is all to fund statutory functions that have progressively been underfunded, such as social services.

"It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that services are wanted in increased quantity.

"People of all political persuasions have yet to come up with a solution that ensures there is adequate funding from central government, and that is being felt by local authorities right across the country."

The county council leader, who took the position in 2019, also believes the government should plan further ahead with budget funding.

At the moment, grants and other ring-fenced funding has been known to come through at short notice, creating extra work for council officers.

A recent example was the upcoming Afghanistan relocation plan, which will see Afghan families who have supported UK armed forces as translators and guides rehoused in Hampshire.

The Home Office has not yet allocated funding, or outlined how many years of funding councils will receive.

Cllr Mans said: "Rather than having one-year settlements, we need to have at least three years of funding outlined.

"It means we have to react very quickly to the latest offerings from the government.

"Then a few years later when the ring-fence gets removed, the funding doesn’t carry on.

"It would be much easier to plan ahead, even if the funding wasn’t as much as we would like – we could at least accommodate for it."

HM Treasury has been contacted for a response to Cllr Mans’ concerns.

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