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Hampshire County Council on 'journey to bankruptcy' amid plea for more government cash

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A LACK of funding means Hampshire County Council is on a "journey to bankruptcy", opposition councillors have warned.

The claim by the Liberal Democrats followed the Conservative-led authority writing to MPs across Hampshire, urging them to back a call for more sustainable funding, writes David George of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Some 26 other authorities have joined the county council in asking for stronger financial support.

Hampshire County Council is preparing to cut £80m from its budget
Hampshire County Council is preparing to cut £80m from its budget

HCC is currently preparing to cut £80m from its budget by April 2023, slashing spending for transport, children’s services and more. The ruling cabinet discussed the situation last Tuesday.

The government has delayed the Fair Funding Review, which has raised concerns among politicians.

The councils that have jointly written to the government have proposed a short-term spending ‘floor’ to give authorities an indication of the minimum amount of funding they would receive each year.

HCC leader Cllr Keith Mans, from Brockenhurst, said: "For a long time, shire councils like Hampshire have received the short straw when it comes to funding from central government, and with another delay to government’s Fair Funding Review, we face a further three-year funding drought for those authorities at the bottom end of the funding table.

"A more equitable funding formula is needed in future, particularly in the face of ever growing demands for social care and the added financial pressures from Covid-19.

"Clearly a short-term fix is not ideal, but it would provide much-needed funding that would enable the system to carry on for a little longer.

HCC leader Cllr Keith Mans, from Brockenhurst
HCC leader Cllr Keith Mans, from Brockenhurst

"Without extra financial support, those authorities with low core spending power will increasingly struggle to provide essential and valued services to their local communities."

But the Liberal Democrat opposition spokesperson for economy, transport and environment, Cllr Martin Tod, feared the situation would only get worse.

He said: "The current financial model simply isn’t sustainable – we’re basically on a journey to bankruptcy.

"The situation is dire, and everyone is cutting back to the bare bones of what the council is responsible for.

"In the past, councils had their own money to do their own thing. Now everything is done through bidding to central government, which doesn’t guarantee anything.

"What that means is the people who know the area best can’t make the decisions."

Cllr Tod added he agrees with the Conservatives in wanting a long-term financial agreement with the government as council tax "isn’t the answer".

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