Hampshire council cuts plans slammed by opposition

Plans to slash a council's spending have been branded "savage" by opposition parties.

Conservative-run Hampshire County Council approved measures, including cuts to public transport and school crossing patrols, to reduce its £132m budget gap forecast by 2025/26.

The Lib Dem opposition said the financial situation would still be "worse" in the upcoming years.

The council said it would work with other bodies to minimise the impact.

Hampshire had already warned it was among the local authorities facing intense pressure on budgets and having to make difficult decisions on spending.

The authority said the latest budget would affect all sectors with services reduced to "bare minimum levels".

Speaking at a debate on the budget, leader of the Lib Dem group Councillor Keith House said the current situation was "bleak" and the proposals would not be enough, since £71m still needed to be found.

"The proposals here do rely on another £57m to be taken from reserves with an ongoing gap of £42m each year even before looking at, what demographic trend suggests, will be even further and deeper cuts if we get to the position of having this debate again in two years," he said.

Labour group leader Alex Crawford said councils had been left "in limbo" waiting for funding announcements from central government.

"Where will the council find the money for spending in 2025/26? Is the council really approaching that tipping point, going over the cliff edge and unable to meet the legal duty to balance the budget?"

The authority previously said 60% of almost 3,000 respondents to a public consultation in the summer agreed with its financial strategy, which Mr Crawford dismissed as "biased" and "over-complicated".

Independent group leader Andy Tree said the council faced a "thankless task".

"Regardless of how well intended, this plan... will surely harm our most vulnerable and lower-paid residents, and that is not acceptable," he said.

A second consultation on parts of the budget package is due to take place in January before it goes before a meeting of the full council for approval.

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