Agenda item

Leader's Report

To receive the report of the Leader.



The Leader opened his report by confirming that he was in receipt of a response from the Minister of Pensions to his letter regarding the resolution passed by the Council at its February meeting regarding changes to the state pension age affecting women born in the 1950s.  The Minister confirmed that the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s investigation into the Department for Work and Pension’s communication in regard to this matter was ongoing and commenting before that investigation was complete would not be appropriate.  The Leader informed the Council he would await the outcome of that investigation before taking a decision on next steps.


Having been elected Leader of the Council one year ago the Leader reflected on the last 12 months’, which had encompassed engaging with residents, businesses, partners and Hampshire MPs, as well as focusing on the role and responsibilities of the County Council to bring together partners such as district and borough councils, universities, the NHS and businesses to tackle shared priorities such as economic regeneration and improving public health.


Other key areas of focus had been:


·         County Deal and the submission of the Pan-Hampshire County Deal prospectus to Government.  There had been positive engagement with the Levelling Up Minister and Government officials and Upper-Tier Chief Executives are continuing to progress work on the potential inclusion of the Pan-Hampshire County Deal in the next wave of devolution proposals.

·         Over 1,600 families (over 3,300 guests) had been welcomed to Hampshire under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, with 2,100 residents becoming hosts.  The Leader expressed thanks to the Children’s Services Directorate for the work they had done to implement the Scheme alongside Hampshire district and borough councils and community partners.

·         The County Council adopted a new organisational structure with effect from 1 January to support and strengthen joined-up working across the Council’s strategies and services.  Cabinet roles had been aligned with the new model with the Leader and Deputy Leader being the portfolio leads for Hampshire 2050.  The Leader would report further on plans for this important area of work soon.

·         A personal highlight for the Leader had been the appointment of a Cabinet Member for Inclusion and Diversity.  The role is held by Councillor Kirsty North and the Leader was pleased to announce that Councillor Arun Mummalaneni would be the County Council’s new Member Champion for Inclusion and Diversity to champion matters related to all legally protected characteristics.

·         The Leader drew Members attention to the positive feedback received by the Children’s Services Directorate following a focused visit by inspectors earlier this year to look at the County Council’s arrangements for children in care, giving well deserved recognition to Children’s Services frontline staff and officers.

·         Over the last year, the Leader had actively campaigned for central Government to make urgent reforms to the local government funding model and develop a clear plan for the long-term financial sustainability of the sector.  A constructive and positive discussion was held with the Local Government Minister and the Leader of Kent County Council in March.  The momentum would be maintained and a strong case to MPs and Ministers for urgent action would continue to be made.  The extent of the County Council’s budget pressures (a budget shortfall of around £132m is forecast by 2025/26) means that a public consultation will soon be undertaken looking at options for detailed savings proposals to attempt to close the predicted budget gap.  Members will receive a briefing pack a week in advance of the consultation launch at noon on Monday 12 June.  A decision on the next steps will be taken in the Autumn.

·         The Leader reported that one of the low points for him during the past 12 months was the death of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  In contrast, the Leader had been delighted to see the variety of events to celebrate the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III and wished His Majesty the King and Her Majesty Queen Camilla a long and successful reign.

·         The Leader concluded his report by congratulating the Hampshire County Youth Band on celebrating its 60th anniversary last month.  The Leader congratulated all members of the Youth Band, past and present for making the group such a success.