To consider the report of Cabinet seeking approval of recommendations in regard to the Medium Term Financial Strategy and Transformation to 2019 savings proposals.
The Council considered a report from the Cabinet
(Item 10 in the Minute Book) providing an update on the medium term
financial strategy for the County and Transformation to 2019
savings proposals and detailed Equality Impact Assessments,
considered by the Cabinet on 16 October 2017. The Cabinet report
outlines the feedback from the consultation exercise ‘Serving
Hampshire – Balancing the Budget’. The Cabinet had also
considered the Treasury Management mid-year monitoring report for
2017/18 (Appendix 2 to the Cabinet report) in accordance with the
CIPFA Code of Practice and recommended it to the County Council for
In presenting the report, the Leader confirmed that it dealt with some difficult recommendations as a result of reductions in government Grant coupled with inflationary and demographic pressures which required savings of £140m 2019/20; a figure that was reported to Council in February last year. The Leader confirmed that the County Council remains in a stable financial state having successfully delivered a previous round of savings for Transformation to 2017, whilst retaining high quality essential services. By adopting a long term approach, taking difficult decisions in consultation and using the County Council’s carefully managed reserves in a way that minimises the impact of changes had proved to be a successful approach and one that would be continued. The Leader emphasised that by law, the County Council must set a balanced budget.
The Leader drew attention to the significant contribution that the various forms of commercial activity makes to the County Council’s financial resilience, and asked Members to note the almost £20m extra for Children’s Services to address demand pressures, social worker attraction and retention, home to school transport and special guardianship orders. Recommendation (xi) from the Cabinet was highlighted which provided £500,000 support to Town and Parish Councils to provide pump priming funding for targeted, joint initiatives aimed at improving local services.
The Leader also drew Members attention to the additional resolution of Cabinet (xii) as follows:
“Require that officers, as specific decision making processes move forward, continue to explore all viable options to revise or refine these proposals with particular regard to service continuity in areas such as community transport, school crossing patrols and waste and recycling centres, in consultation with partners and stakeholders as appropriate, while recognising that any modification to the proposal must be consistent with the financial and time imperatives of the overall programme.”
The Leader moved the
report’s recommendations and proposed an additional recommendation, which was seconded by Councillor Mel
Kendal as follows:
“That Hampshire County Council calls on the Government to permit Councils responsible for administering the national Concessionary Travel Scheme, to levy modest charges on older persons’ passes, e.g. 50p for each use and £10 for issuing and renewing permits, with the balance of revenue raised after costs to be used to support uncommercial, public or community transport services serving vulnerable or disadvantaged residents or areas.”
The Executive Member for Economic Development highlighted a number of areas in the Cabinet report ... view the full minutes text for item 40
To consider a report of the Director of Corporate Resources – Corporate Services presenting the high level outcomes from the public consultation exercise on balancing the budget and to consider the overall financial strategy for dealing with the budget gap to 2019/20 in light of the various options available to the County Council.
Cabinet received a report of the Director of Corporate Resources regarding the medium term financial strategy and Transformation to 2019 (T19) savings proposals.
In introducing the item, the Chairman noted the scale of savings that had already been made and the work undertaken to achieve this. A further £140 million was now required from a combination of demographic and inflationary pressures and a reduction in government grant. Specific pressures in areas such as providing support for young adults with complex needs were highlighted. To achieve the savings required, the Chairman favoured careful planning, supporting people to help themselves and enabling community level action by Town and Parish Councils.
The Director of Corporate Resources set out the key sections of the report, noting that it included the outcomes of public consultation, recommendations from individual departments and equality impact assessments relating to the proposals. She detailed a number of areas and drew Cabinet’s attention in particular to section 3 of the report detailing the Council’s commercial activity and its focus on sustainable and low risk investment.
With the agreement of the Chairman, Councillor Dowden addressed Cabinet. He acknowledged that the financial pressure resulted from national austerity measures, but felt that it would cause hardship. He did not consider the consultation that was carried out to be valid and was opposed to the strategy of making equal reductions across the organisation. Councillor Dowden noted that pressure on social care was particularly high and expressed his concern that cuts to community transport would undermine progress by putting community organisations at risk of closure and leading to increased levels of social isolation. He called on Cabinet to seek additional funding from the Government specifically to alleviate pressures on social care provision.
The Chairman thanked Councillor Dowden for his input and confirmed that all of Cabinet were very concerned about the position, but noted that government could not simply keep spending and therefore savings were required. The approach of asking for an equal contribution from all departments and then seeking to provide additional support for vulnerable areas where required was supported.
In discussion of the issues raised, Members were supportive of the direction of travel and of the report. It was noted that the County Council did not have the option of sharply increasing Council Tax as had been done in the 1990s and therefore savings were needed. Furthermore there were statutory restrictions on the way in which some service provision could be changed, despite public support, such as charging for the use of Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs). Cabinet acknowledged that the number of consultation responses had been low and felt that this was reflective of a broad level of acceptance for the proposals. It was emphasised that the goal of improving social outcomes continued despite the financial pressure and confirmed that providing protection for vulnerable children would not change. It was also confirmed that approaches would be made to government regarding the charging restrictions on HWRCs and exploring the options for a pilot scheme. ... view the full minutes text for item 26