£2.2 million to be spent on hiring just 17 new council staff to CUT spending

Hampshire County Council sign

Up to £2.2 million will be spent on hiring new council staff to help children’s services save money by cutting spending on ‘looked after children’.

The amount will come from the ‘Invest to Save Reserve’ pot, which the council uses to make a “long-term recurring saving”.

Hampshire County Council has approved the expenditure of up to £2.2 million to employ 17 people, which will help the county children’s services roll out a savings proposal to help towards £132 million council-wide savings needed for 2025/26.

Some of those proposals include releasing the Aviary Nursery in Eastleigh, currently owned and managed by HCC, to be run by an independent provider and creating a regional unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) brokerage service that will help local authorities identify suitable placements to care for and support these children.

It also includes some structural changes involving the transformation of the HCC’s social care services that are delivered by the family support service (FSS) and the children’s assessment and safeguarding teams (CAST).  

The transformation will combine both services into one called ‘family hub,’ which will target early help and children in need.

Changes in libraries will also be made as part of the plan, which will see further development of community hubs in libraries, relocation of services, optimization of stock and purchasing, and reduction of library staff.

In order to save £11.1 million, children’s services wants to use £2.2m from the £5m ‘Invest to Save Reserve’.

While council cuts could include the closure of several tips, the reduction in cultural, homelessness, and community transport financial support, higher car parking fees, and the end of school crossing patrols, questions were raised about the possibility of using the ‘Invest to Save Reserve’ to reduce the deficit.

But while the council said that “in theory, the money could have been used to meet the budget deficit”, since it is one-off funding, “it does not help to address the underlying recurring deficit that we face”.

A spokesperson for the council said: “It makes more sense to use this funding to create long-term recurring savings that will help balance the budget from 2025/26 onwards.”