To receive such reports as the Leader of the Council may wish to bring before the Council.
The Leader opened his report on the latest position with Covid-19 and highlighted that although restrictions had been lifted, the virus is still present and the Government’s message was focussing on personal responsibility and caution. The County Council’s priority throughout the pandemic had been to Keep Hampshire Safe. Therefore, the Leader urged all residents to ensure that they take up both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, continue with regular testing, and take proportionate safety measures to look after themselves and others.
The Leader was pleased to report that the
Pan-Hampshire County Deal proposal was progressing successfully and
at pace, attracting significant interest from Ministers and support
from stakeholders. Further detail about
the opportunities for Pan-Hampshire and the proposals for a deal
would be shared soon, which would be evidence based and seek to
gain greater freedoms and flexibilities to make things work better
locally. The Leader confirmed that the
County Council had not made any decisions about what is needed, and
instead was using its position to facilitate the conversation and
drive progress proportionately. The
Leader confirmed that getting a bold and ambitious deal for the
whole of the county was the priority in order to take greater
control over the future and to level up for Hampshire
The Leader reported that the County Council welcomed the Government’s efforts to support Afghans arriving in the UK; the Council would continue to do all it can to give Afghan refugees the help they need to rebuild their lives, working closely with District and Borough, health and voluntary sector partners to ensure that all individuals receive everything they need. The Leader applauded the wave of support and generosity expressed by Hampshire residents through their donations and efforts to make refugees feel welcome. The County Council welcomed the recent funding announcement from the Home Office and continues to feed information back to regional and national leads, including through a meeting with Hampshire MPs last week to provide them with an update on the situation and the County Council’s key asks of Government.
In turning to financial matters, the Leader confirmed that although the County Council was in a better position than many authorities, it continues to face a challenging financial landscape as a direct result of continuing pressures on local government funding and increasing demand for core public services. Cabinet Members were having to make difficult recommendations to help bridge a budget shortfall of at least £80 million over the next two years, which will be brought to Full Council in November. The Leader thanked all residents and stakeholders who took the time to share their views with the County Council by responding to the “Balancing the Budget” consultation, the findings of which, together with the Equality Impact Assessments, had helped shape the proposals which are currently being considered. The consultation outcome was clear that a range of options would be needed to deliver the required savings and the County Council would be looking at a combination of approaches to help meet the scale of the financial challenge and balance the budget in full, which must be done by law.
After 13 years of
cost reductions to deliver cumulative savings of over £0.6
billion to date, the Leader reported that it was becoming
increasingly difficult to find ways of making deeper savings and
the Council would continue to lobby Government for a fairer and
more sustainable solution to the financial pressures local
authorities, and in particular, shire counties, face. The Leader also confirmed that every opportunity
to remind Hampshire MPs of the detail of the County Council’s
situation was being taken.
The Leader was delighted to open the recently transformed Staunton Country Park, the result of an ambitious project made possible by contributions from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Big Lottery Fund. The visitor facilities had been much improved and the historic Georgian landscape revitalised. The Leader was also delighted to attend the opening of Sir Harold Hillier Gardens new Garden Restaurant in Jermyn’s House.
It was with much
pleasure that the Leader confirmed the County Council had secured
Gold Award re-accreditation in the MOD’s Employer Recognition
Scheme having first achieved the Gold Award in 2016. The County
Council was one of the first Local Authorities to sign the Armed
Forces Covenant and has delivered a successful and comprehensive
programme of work to deliver on this promise.
The Leader reported that the County Council’s Assistant Chief Executive, Deborah Harkin had retired from the County Council yesterday, and thanked Deborah for all the work she had done and support she had given to him during his time as Leader of the Council.
Lastly, the Leader proposed that three further County Councillors be conveyed the title of Honorary Alderman, namely: Anna McNair Scott, Andrew Gibson and Jane Frankum at a Special Meeting of the County Council to be held on Thursday 4 November 2021.