Page last updated at 06:34 GMT, Monday, 1 March 2010

Three Hampshire councils braced for budget cuts of 38m

By Thelma Etim
BBC News, Hampshire

Portsmouth Guildhall
Portsmouth pensioners will get a 50 rebate

Jobs will be axed and some services will be streamlined as three Hampshire local authorities try to find a total of more than £38m in savings.

Hampshire County Council, which has to find £19m savings, has increased its council tax by 1.9% and intends to cut IT jobs.

Southampton City Council must save £8m and will raise its council tax by 2.5%. In addition 120 jobs are to go and councillors' allowances will be frozen at current levels.

In contrast, Portsmouth City Council continues to defend freezing council tax and giving pensioners a £50 rebate, despite having to find £11.8m savings.

We made a profit last year so it's sharing some of the profit back with the people who put the money in
Leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson
Portsmouth City Council

Leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said the cash makes up only a small part of the authority's £570m budget.

He eschewed advice from finance chiefs who said the plan, worth £1.7m, was not "prudent".

Mr Vernon-Jackson added: "We managed to under-spend the budget by over £5m.

"In effect, we made a profit last year so it's sharing some of the profit back with the people who put the money in in the first place."

The council employs more than 10,500 people and is expected to shed 40 jobs, according to Mr Vernon-Jackson.

But he also said the authority would be investing money in social care, including hiring five new social workers.

'Schemes at risk'

The Liberal Democrat-controlled authority has already denied the scheme was linked to the forthcoming general election.

But its chief executive David Williams told BBC News: "On the one hand lots of people will be delighted by a zero per cent increase [but] the council could do an awful lot to support local people with £1.7m."

Charlie Ade, chief executive of Portsmouth-based youth charity Motiv8 which uses football to inspire youngsters at risk of offending, is worried about future funding.

Motiv8 targets youngsters at risk of offending

"There are occasions when actually spending on prevention [schemes] is one of the things that becomes at risk when money is tight."

Meanwhile, Conservative-controlled Southampton has revealed its cuts will include 120 job losses; reducing the cost of home care and residential care, reducing the number of council meetings and freezing councillors allowances.

Councillor Jeremy Moulton, Southampton's cabinet member for resources and workforce planning, claimed: "This is a well thought-through budget, one that ensures that our main services will continue to give residents the quality service they expect."

Conservative-controlled Hampshire County Council has forecast job losses among the authority's IT staff, but has not released specific details.

It also plans to "streamline services, make better use of office space and renegotiate a cheaper deal for its waste disposal contract".

Council leader Ken Thornber told BBC News: "We will always look for efficiency savings that do not impact at the point of delivery of our services."

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