IN a frank letter to the prime minister, chancellor and secretary of state, Hampshire County Council’s leader says unless it gets more money, the authority faces bankruptcy.
In the joint letter with Kent County Council, Hampshire’s Conservative leader Rob Humby said: “We face budget deficits of a scale that has never been seen before.
“Our budgets are now at breaking point.
“We can’t sit by and sleep-walk into a financial disaster.
“Even with drastic service cuts, we won’t be able to close future budget gaps and on current forecasts, have no option but to consider formal talks with our auditors, the Department for Levelling Up and Communities, and the Treasury over the coming months.”
The letter outlines the need for immediate government help and a clear plan for long-term financial sustainability. Without them, the council could be filing for bankruptcy in the next year or so, Cllr Humby (above) added.
Among other issues, the Tory council leader blames 12 years of national austerity and cuts by successive Conservative governments that have cut council funding to the bone.
He also says there is little or no freedom to generate revenue, and that growing inflation, government restrictions on raising council tax, Covid and the Ukraine war are also eroding council income.
And although East Hampshire District Council appears to be safe financially, its leader Richard Millard, also a Conservative, recently warned ‘local government could be put into (funding) crisis’ unless more money is found.
But it is believed at least one of Cllr Humby’s wishes may come true in tomorrow’s autumn budget announcement by chancellor and South West Surrey MP Jeremy Hunt.
It is widely predicted he will raise the cap on annual council tax increases from 2.99 per cent to 4.99 per cent.
This could see households in Band D paying up to £100 more for the year from April 2023, with average bills exceeding £2,000 a year for the first time.