Hampshire County Council

Introduction

Hampshire is the top tier of local government in the multi-tier areas and therefore is responsible for the “Big ticket” items such as education and roads, with a scrutiny role in public health, police and fire services.  It has an annual spend of around £1.9 billion and employs almost 40,000 people.

County Council meetings

The County Council meetings are meetings held in public, so you are very welcome to pop along.  The meeting items and agendas are published in advance on the County Council website, so if you have a Social Services issue or maybe something relating to schools or the public highways, then you may want to attend a particular meeting.

One of the hundreds of County Council buildings situated all over Hampshire
One of the hundreds of County Council buildings situated all over Hampshire

Budget Setting

The committee meetings are generally held at the County’s Winchester headquarters.  The frequency of meetings will increase in the period before council tax rates are decided.  It is the ruling party that set the budget and the other parties can scrutinize and raise issues with the media, but in reality the opposition Parties have very little influence in any decision making.  The ruling party is the party that has most councillors occupying the available 78 seats and in this political term of 2013-2017, it is the Conservatives making the decisions.

Autumn Financial Statement

Although much of the money needed to run local services is raised locally through council tax, the County is heavily reliant on Government funding.  Just how much will be announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Autumn Financial Statement.  Although the Autumn Statement was delivered on 25 November 2015, it was not until 17 December 2015 that local authority Chief Financial Officers were told how much funding they will receive, via the Local Government Finance Settlement.  It is a complicated process made up of a number of different tranches of money for different purposes.  The main tranche however is called the Revenue Support Grant (RSG).  Tax that has been raised locally (including Business Rates) has to be sent to Whitehall.  It is then redistributed around the country according to most need.  For the municipal year 2016/17 the Government has slashed its funding to Hampshire County Council by an enormous 37.5%.  To bridge the gap between the money available and the money expected, the Conservative administration would have to raise council tax by about 28%.  However, that is illegal since Westminster has ruled that for any increase above 1.99%, a local referendum must be held, which itself would be costly.

Public Funding of Charitable Causes

Under Section 137 of the Local Government Act 1972, local government has the power to fund community groups in terms of both revenue and capital expenditure.  This is undertaken in various ways such as via the County Council Leader, via a subcommittee of the Policy and Resources Committee and individually via the councillors themselves…