County Council spends almost £75,00 asking taxpayers what services it should cut

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Bishop's Waltham recycling centre entrance

In January Hampshire County Council launched a public consultation inviting people to give their views on where a new huge package of cuts should fall.

Now the Meon Valley Times can exclusively reveal that the council has spent £73,995 on the cuts consultation including paying for advertising on Facebook and Twitter social media channels and online ads have also appeared on newspaper websites including The Sun and The Guardian.

The County Council says cuts to services are necessary due to a £132 million budget shortfall by next April.

Among the possible cuts are proposals to close Bishop’s Waltham tip, removing some school crossing patrols including the one at Church Road, Swanmore, slashing the budget for road repairs, cutting services for homeless people and axing community transport.

The figures were revealed in response to a Freedom of Information Request from the Meon Valley Times. Here’s a breakdown of how the money has been spent:

  • Promoting the consultation to ensure residents are aware of proposals and able to respond, covering all of Hampshire as well as targeting traditionally hard-to-hear groups and those less likely to respond: £19,805
  • Letters and postage to individuals potentially affected by the adult social care proposal to inform them of the consultation: £10,627
  • Producing alternative formats – spend as of 19 February (e.g. audio version, Easy Read version, translated versions and large print) and paper copies of consultation documents at the request of residents unable to respond online: £11,395
  • Postage to send paper copies of the consultation out to residents, on their request: £168 as of 19 February 2024.
  • Analysis and data entry: £32,000
  • Facebook/Instagram: Budget available of up to £1,200
  • Snapchat: Budget available of up to £1,200
  • Twitter/X: Budget available of up to £600
  • Radio advertising, print newspapers, and promotion at Hampshire universities and colleges (to February 19th): £14,527

A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council: “The service within the County Council with responsibility for the publicising and delivery of the consultation have advised that to ensure that residents have been informed and encouraged to take part in the Future Services Consultation over its 12-week duration, a range of communications methods and channels have been adopted to raise public awareness.

“In addition to the use of online channels, engagement via direct correspondence and extensive publicity via the news media, some additional, costed techniques have also been necessary to maximise the reach of information, and particularly to groups of individuals who may not usually engage the County Council directly, but for whom their feedback is equally important.

“In addition, with thousands of responses already received to date on proposals around the future of local services in Hampshire beyond April 2025, and further feedback expected before the closing date of 31 March 2024, it has been necessary to factor data entry and analysis costs into the overall budget for the public consultation.”

The list of the areas being consulted on for cuts covers:

Adult social care charges: Proposals to change the way contributions towards non-residential social care costs are calculated, so that the amount someone pays towards their non-residential care and support increases from 95% to 100% of any assessable income remaining once standard outgoings are paid for and an allowance is made for general living costs such as food, utility bills and clothing.

Adult social care grant schemes: To withdraw funding for three Adult Social Care grant programmes that assist voluntary, community, and social enterprise organisations in Hampshire, namely the Council for Voluntary Services Infrastructure Grant, the Citizens Advice Infrastructure Grant and the Local Solutions Grant.

Competitive (one-off) grant schemes: To withdraw three competitive grant schemes which provide one-off grants to a range of community groups and organisations; namely the Leader’s Community Grants, the Rural Communities Fund (including country shows) and the Parish and Town Council Investment Fund.

Hampshire Cultural Trust grant: To reduce the amount of grant given to Hampshire Cultural Trust to manage and deliver arts and museums services.

Highways maintenance: To reduce planned highways maintenance activities, incorporating larger-scale structural repairs, surface treatments on roads, and drainage improvements.

Highways winter service: To comprehensively review and revise the criteria used to determine which roads should be treated as part of the Priority One network to better align with current national guidance and reflect changes in travelling and commuting patterns, and to update the routes accordingly.

Homelessness Support Services: To stop funding services that the County Council does not have a legal requirement to provide, that support people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs): To provide a sustainable, cost-effective and fit-for-purpose Household Waste Recycling service within a reduced budget. This might involve introducing charging for discretionary services, implementing alternative delivery models, reducing opening days and/or hours or reducing the number of HWRCs.

Library stock: To reduce how much is spent on new library stock, such as books and digital resources, each year.

Passenger transport: To reduce the amount of money spent on passenger transport by withdrawing all remaining funding that the County Council is not legally required to provide. This includes funding for community transport services (incorporating Dial-a-Ride, Call and Go, Taxi Shares, Group Hire Services, and Wheels to Work), subsidies for bus routes that are not commercially viable, additional funding to extend the Concessionary Travel Scheme (older and disabled persons bus passes) and a review of the potential impact of reductions on the school transport service and social care budgets.

Rural countryside parking: To introduce car parking charges at rural countryside car parks (such as nature reserves and conservation sites) that the County Council manages, where it is expected that doing so would be commercially viable.

School Crossing Patrols: To review the School Crossing Patrols (SCP) service by looking at each SCP site to decide if alternative safety measures exist or could be put in place that would enable the SCP to be safely withdrawn or be funded by other organisations.

Street lighting: To reduce the brightness of streetlights further and to extend the periods that streetlights are switched off during the night (by two hours) – where it is considered safe and appropriate to do so.

The council’s consultation runs until March 31st www.hants.gov.uk/future-services-consultation.

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