Spending plans of £2.6 billion, to deliver hundreds of local services to Hampshire’s 1.4 million residents for the year ahead are set to be agreed by Hampshire county councillors on February 23.
But headline figures reveal a 4.99 per cent rise in the authority’s share of council tax for the year from April – with two per cent of that going towards funding adult social care.
This increase will see an annual bill of £1,460.25 for an average Band D property – an increase of £69.45 a year or about £1.34 a week.
And once again the authority seems to be balancing on a financial knife edge, with the leader of the Conservative council Rob Humby blaming the Conservative government for a predicted £58m gap in revenue funding for the coming year.
Cllr Humby said: “At a time when residents are having to make difficult decisions about their spending, the county council is also grappling with profound financial challenges.
“Like all councils nationally, years of underfunding from central government, alongside continued growth in demand for social care for our county’s most vulnerable children and adults, is stretching our budgets to the brink.
“The funding awarded to us by government for this coming year, although welcome, still won’t be enough to meet the growing pressures in social care over the next year.
“We also have to factor in workforce pressures and inflation which is pushing up the costs of delivering local services across the board to our residents.”
And unless the government steps up, Cllr Humby once again claims the sustainability of the council could be in doubt.
He said: “In over a decade of national austerity, we’ve had to reduce our overall spending by around £0.6bn.
“But each year the funding gaps widen as pressures mount.
“We’ve made no secret of the unprecedented budget pressures we face in future years.
“By 2025/26 our forecasts predict a £132m budget shortfall, which raises worrying questions about the future sustainability of the council.
“For years, we’ve been lobbying central government to review how it funds councils.
“We have been pressing for urgent action, and we continue this action in earnest.
“We have also joined around 20 other low-funded councils warning government of the consequences of further delays to the long-overdue Fair Funding Review.
“In the absence of such desperately needed change to the way local government is funded, even with the proposed increase in council tax, it means that in 2023/24, there is an estimated £58m gap in our revenue budget.
“This will have to be balanced using reserves, as by law we have to balance the books.
“We fully appreciate the impact that any planned increase in council tax would have on people’s household bills at this very difficult time.
“The recommended increase would generate nearly £37m of vital extra income.
“And we will also be maximising every penny of funding available to us, including using our reserves where possible, to meet the overall shortfall we face this coming year.
“If agreed on February 23, the recommended council tax increase, which is less than half the current rate of inflation, would still mean that Hampshire has the second lowest council tax precept of any county in England.”
Alongside revenue spending plans for the next financial year, there are also capital budget proposals, with building and infrastructure projects totalling £645.3m over the next three years.
Cllr Humby added: “This planned infrastructure investment is one of the largest anywhere in the country.
“It would bring the four-year total investment by the council to £927.3m, providing a huge boost to the local economy through jobs and construction.
“It also contribute towards the council’s commitment to tackling climate change, becoming carbon neutral and resilient to the impacts of a two degree temperature rise by 2050.”
For more information about the council’s budget for the coming year, visit the website at https://www.hants.gov.uk/