School crossing patrols set to be axed as council set to approve huge cuts

Controversial plans including removing school crossing patrols, making cuts to public transport and turning off street lights are all part of Hampshire County Council’s plan to slash spending.

The Conservative-run council will meet next Thursday at a full council meeting to approve, as recommended, the saving proposal that has been developed to try to fill the £132 million budget gap forecasted by 2025/26.

If approved, a second round of public consultation will be conducted in the upcoming months. Executive decision-making will follow where necessary.

With the plan, Hampshire County Council (HCC) identified that a total of £90.4 million could be generated through the savings proposals, of which £75 million is expected to be delivered by 2025/26, leaving an unmet budget gap of £57 million in 2025/26.

According to the council, the initiatives will impact all sectors with cuts, reducing services to “bare minimum levels” – which councils are legally required to provide – fee increases, and an in-depth change in how services are offered. It also said it will continue to use its reserves, which have dropped by £38m since 2021/22.

The council has also said school routes considered “safe” or where measures to improve pedestrian facilities can be implemented will no longer have school crossing patrols. However, where routes cannot be made safe, HCC will continue to fund and provide a crossing patrol officer.

By the change or redundancy of the school crossing patrolling, the council estimated it could save £1.1 million, which will go into the savings bag.

The council also had planned to reduce its highway maintenance spend, which means that planned maintenance activities will continue to be carried out, but at a reduced level, until the government provides enough funding to reinstate the original level of maintenance.

To minimise the impact of budget cuts, HCC will also explore new operational working practices and the use of smart and innovative technology.

HCC said that if central government doesn’t provide more funding for roads, their cuts will lead to a faster deterioration because of winter weather, climate change and traffic.

In addition, the cost-saving plan includes suspending all non-statutory local bus and community transport services, which currently amount to £2.7 million per year. According to the county council, this measure could save £1.7 million.

Approximately £800k of this funding is delivered to community transport services like Dial-a-Ride and Call and Go, run by Community First Charity.

The move could leave thousands of vulnerable passengers in Havant, Fareham, Gosport, East Hampshire, New Forest, Winchester, and Basingstoke without community transport. However, the directorate will engage with third-sector partners and other stakeholders to consider how the impact can be minimised.

There could also be changes to streetlighting, including more dimming and partnight lighting, and making the switch to more energy-efficient LED lighting.

There will be further reductions of staffing resources at HCC’s HQ services and alignment of prevention activities and digital tools across various services to streamline public service.

Based on the public consultation held during the summer in which HCC received 2,935 responses, 60 percent of respondents agreed with the financial strategy, compared to 45 percent in 2021.