Arabic songs marked the start of Hampshire County Council’s annual meeting, during which it was revealed there are likely to be further cuts to services as it faces a £132 million budget shortfall by 2025.
The meeting yesterday began with a reading of an Arabic prayer from the first chapter of the Koran. The celebrant explained that the verses speak about Allah being the God of the world, not only of the Muslims.
The meeting also marked by the new chairman appointment, the leader’s speech and an intense debate surrounding the two motions presented.
A change of chairman also took place during the session with Councillor Patricia Stallard elected Chairman of the County Council. Councillor Keith Mans was named vice-chairman. Councillor Stallard will represent the county council on royal visits and ceremonial occasions.
Following the agenda, the council leader Rob Humby highlighted in his report the appointment of Councillor Kirsty North for inclusion and diversity. “The more inclusive and diverse we are as an employer, the more effectively we will be able to work with and serve all communities,” he said.
In addition, he announced the appointment of Councillor Arun Mummalaneni as a new Champion for Inclusion and Diversity member. In his role, he will endorse and protect people’s rights, focusing on antiracism matters, and alongside Councillor North will ensure all members deliver the county council’s inclusion strategy.
In the speech, Councillor Humby also recognised the council’s challenges as a consequence of the financial crisis. He said: “Hampshire council tax and business rate income are not sufficient to meet the growing demand, and inflation cost we face each year.
“By 2025/26, our forecast predicts a budget shortfall of around £132m on top of the savings we already made today. The extent of our budget pressures means that we will soon be undertaking a public consultation looking at options for detailed saving proposals to attempt to close the predicted budget gap before the decision on the next steps this autumn.
“Members will receive a briefing pack a week in advance of the launch of the consultation, followed by further details at noon on Monday, June 12th. In the meantime, I remain committed to keeping up the momentum in the coming months and continue to make a strong case to MPs and ministers for urgent action on funding the local government.”