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Hampshire County Council set to U-Turn on axing school crossing patrols amid budget balancing

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CIVIC chiefs are set to bow to public pressure and scrap their plan to axe school crossing patrols in Hampshire, it has been revealed.

The county council’s economy, transport and environment department is trying to shave £10m from its annual budget, but has said the overwhelming support for the patrols during a recent public consultation caused the rethink.

It suggested it will also abandon plans to shut half the county’s Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC), claiming money can be saved by getting recycling rates up.

Overwhelming support for the patrols has caused the rethink
Overwhelming support for the patrols has caused the rethink

HCC has begun planning for its next two years in the face of an £80m budget shortfall, and leader Cllr Keith Mans has tasked each department with making savings.

The economy, transport and environment department has floated saving the HWRCs and school crossing patrols by saving money elsewhere. It has mooted making changes to rubbish collections and waste systems and encouraging households to recycle more and reduce waste.

That will reduce the associated disposal costs incurred, for which contingency funding had been earmarked, but is dependent on residents.

Patrols were also boosted by the increased popularity of walking and cycling arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and coinciding with government support for funding and policy, it said.

It was confident it could save more than £2m through changes to the department’s operating model, identifying highways maintenance contract efficiencies and reducing passenger transport funding.

The ideas were due to be considered by Cllr Rob Humby, HCC deputy leader and cabinet member for the department, on Thursday. If he approves, they will go to the October cabinet meeting and full council, and also be subjected to further detailed scrutiny.

Meanwhile, Cllr Mans has warned the public the financial challenges posed to HCC mean members will likely raise its share of the council tax by the maximum possible without holding a referendum for 2022/23.

That will equate to 3.99% – comprising a proposed increase of 1.99% in ‘core’ council tax and a further 2% rise in the adult social care precept.

Cuts of £21.3m are also proposed for children’s services – £7.7m from children’s social care, £336,000 from education and community services and £2.5m from the home-to-school transport pot, with plans to review that service and develop direct relationships between schools and operators.

A further £178,000 could be slashed from the Youth Offending Team budget, with staffing levels being reduced.

Cabinet member for children’s services, Cllr Roz Chadd, will decide on the plans.

Liberal Democrat Dibden and Hythe county councillor, Malcolm Wade, said the precept rise was “sadly inevitable”.

“Despite Westminster reassurances, austerity still lives in Winchester and another round of Tory budget cuts to essential services is on its way. We’re paying more for less.”

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