Hampshire County Council is laying out its financial plans ready to allow for the “bare minimum” of some services in the county, while axeing others, in a huge push to cut costs.
If approved, proposals include turning off some street lights at night, new parking charges and cutting back on day-to-day repairs such as dealing with potholes and drain cleaning.
It is also looking to increase council tax and continue using its reserves to pay for services as it looks to make savings of £132 million to balance the budget by 2025-26.
The initiatives will mean cuts in all sectors, service reductions to “bare minimum levels” – what councils are legally required to provide – fee increases and changes to how services are offered.
Options include country park memberships, increasing parking charges at countryside sites, introducing on-street parking charges in new locations and reviewing them at existing ones, introducing new charges for parking at off-street and countryside locations, increasing ceremony fees, more speed cameras and keeping street lights off at night on some non-residential roads.
Changes could also include pausing the Operation Resilience programme, which involves dealing with potholes, replacing road markings, repairs to signs and drain cleaning, meaning these activities and larger-scale structural maintenance would only be undertaken on safety grounds, or when major or widespread defects are identified. With this change the council estimates saving £7.5 million.
In addition the council plans to reduce and change some services, especially non-statutory ones. Proposals include the possible loss of lollipop men and women, the end of funding for community transport and halving financial support for the cultural sector.
The council also proposes raising council tax by more than 4.99 per cent. It said that for every one per cent increase it would receive £7.8 million – but a public referendum vote in favour would be required.
At a full council meeting last Thursday, council leader Cllr Rob Humby said: “The challenges that we face are the same as other local authorities – high inflation, high demand for social care services and more than a decade of underfunding from the central government. As a result, council budgets are close to breaking point.
“We have warned ministers that this is an unsustainable situation. This month the Birmingham City Council issued a Section 114 notice. If reports are to be believed, plenty of other councils will be forced to consider doing the same in the next year or two.
“Hampshire is in a better financial position than most county councils. While our finances are stable until 2025-26, we need a central government to fundamentally change the way local services are funded or reduce what councils are legally required to deliver.”