Lib Dems hit out at 'endless cycle of doom' as county contemplates £80 million budget gap
A SENIOR councillor has hit out at the ‘endless cycle of doom’ surrounding ongoing budget cuts at Hampshire County Council.
It comes as councillors met to discuss an £80 million black hole in the county’s budget. It needs to be dealt with by April 2023.
Current budget cut plans include £22.6m being slashed from children’s services and £3.3m from culture and communities.
An additional £10.2m is set to be cut from transport and environment, including an £800,000 cut to community transport services.
A budget update will be put forward to the council next month, with the budget and council tax being finalised in February next year.
The council’s budget strategy was voted through at last week’s meeting, but politicians across different parties have bemoaned the impact this will have on public services.
Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr Keith House, said that the Conservative-led council was not learning from previous years.
"This is the sixth time we’ve been through this process since the start of government austerity," he said.
"Maybe time travel does exist, or perhaps it’s more like Groundhog Day, where you repeat an endless loop and fail to break out of the cycle, never learning from history.
"There is no strategy beyond yet more cuts to public services in the future."
"Instead, what we have is a recipe for long-term decline – it’s an endless cycle of doom."
Cllr House added that once government grants and additional funding are taken into account, he believed the savings total should be closer to £25m per year, rather than £40m.
The Liberal Democrat leader then put forward an amendment to the budget proposals, which would have delayed cuts of £365,000 to the voluntary sector, to instead be reconsidered by cabinet.
This amendment was voted down by councillors towards the end of the meeting.
Council leader Cllr Keith Mans said: "The financial forecast ahead leaves us facing a considerable balancing act in trying to meet residents’ needs given the backdrop of diminishing budgets and rising demands for services.
"Even so, with continued firm financial management and a strong track record of high performance, as well as meeting all our statutory duties, we will continue to do everything possible to address the issues we know people care most about – from supporting the most vulnerable adults and children, to fixing Hampshire’s extensive road network."
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