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Charges at Hampshire tips proposed as county council tries to balance its budget

CHARGES at household waste recycling centres and the scrapping of school crossing patrols are among measures being considered by Hampshire County Council to meet a budget shortfall of £80m over the next two years.

Despite securing savings of £560m over the past 13 years, HCC faces yet another deficit for 2022/23 and 2023/24 due to ongoing reductions in government funding.

It has now launched a public consultation on a range of cost-cutting initiatives, including a £1 fee to use household waste and recycling centres and a £10 charge for a currently free older person’s bus pass.

HCC has suggested introducing charges at county tips
HCC has suggested introducing charges at county tips

Withdrawing all funding for school crossing patrols will save £1.1m, although the council acknowledged this would have a detrimental effect on children, especially those with disabilities.

Were crossing patrols to cease, HCC said that in some cases there may be “opportunity and justification” for making improvements to pedestrian crossings.

Parents could have to pay towards home-to-school transport, with the possibility of the provision being means-tested, and the council could pay 25% less per journey for concessionary travel fares.

HCC is also considering whether to lobby central government for additional funding to deliver social care services for children and adults, plus library provision.

Sweeping cuts are proposed across many of the council’s services, including its in-house care service which provides around 1,095 beds across 25 residential and nursing homes, its breaks for carers of disabled children, and its outdoor centres including Tile Barn Outdoor Centre in Brockenhurst and Calshot Activities Centre.

The latter are being looked at from the perspective of generating additional income through better promotion and improving facilities.

Savings totalling £4.4m are also being sought within the authority’s public health team, while the child safeguarding team, which handles placements in foster care or residential homes, is being tasked with saving £2.7m.

HCC’s service supporting vulnerable young adults with learning and physical disabilities, mental health problems or substance misuse issues is proposing a cut to its budget of £8.7m.

Further options the council is looking at include increasing council tax and dipping into reserves, although it highlighted that the “need to hold reserves to mitigate risk was very clearly demonstrated during the Covid-19”.

Council leader Cllr Keith Mans, of Brockenhurst, said: “Opportunities for reducing costs are getting harder to find as we have already reduced our spending by over £0.5bn in just over a decade, whilst demand for county council services has continued to rise.

“Our financial strategy so far has involved targeting resources on those who need them most, such as vulnerable children and adults, planning ahead and securing savings early. This approach has helped us to invest in new, more efficient ways of working.

“However, we must consider further ways of making ends meet, at the same time as protecting vital services for the people of Hampshire.”

Liberal Democrat councillor David Harrison said the “worrying part” of the latest cuts drive was that it follows 10 years of austerity that have “already seen so many things lost”.

“These include bus subsidies, Sure Start Centres and libraries,” he said. “Given the poor state of our roads and pavements, the pressures on social services and the fact that flytipping increases whenever charges are introduced or restrictions are made at the tips, it is difficult to see how many more cuts could be made without significant impacts to our community”.

The consultation runs until 18th July. Visit www.hants.gov.uk/balancingthebudget, pick up a document at a public library or request one via insight@hants.gov.uk or 0300 555 1375.

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