Balancing The Budget Consultation Response

17 July 2019

Dear Hampshire County Council,

I am replying on behalf of Winchester Green Party to the Balancing the Budget consultation.

It is shocking, disappointing and deeply worrying that this budget makes no reference to the Climate Emergency and does not seek to allocate funds or resources to making dramatic changes to the way that HCC is run, in the light of the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and build climate resilience.

Further, this budget consultation seeks to justify and legitimise further dramatic cuts to public services and quality of life for the people of Hampshire. It is clear from this that austerity has not ended. This budget does not see HCC acting in the best interests of its residents and is not an acceptable budget.

A consultation such as this is not an adequate response to the environmental and financial crisis facing HCC. We call for HCC to scrap this budget and consultation and to immediately set up a Citizens’ Assembly tasked with setting budget priorities in this context.

Our responses to the specific questions are below :

 

Introducing and increasing charges for some services

strongly disagree – the examples given are vital public services. A properly funded and professionally run library service ensures the development of our democracy and helps everyone to play an active role in society. To introduce charging for library services would be to discriminate against those less able to pay. Public libraries play a crucial role in levelling the playing field and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential. For children, libraries provide a crucial safe space to ensure that the poorest have access to the same resources as the wealthiest. Libraries are one of the last remaining public spaces to which we all have access and should be preserved and protected for all of us. Similarly increasing charges for access to publicly owned countryside space would be discriminatory and unacceptable.

 

Lobbying central Government for legislative change;

strongly disagree  - you should not lobby to change statute and introduce charges or means testing for core public services. This legislation is in place to protect the vulnerable in society. It should not be undone by local councils – this would not be acting in the best interests of Hampshire and its residents.

You should be lobbying your party colleagues for an end to austerity. Conservative ministers have deliberately and consistently cut council funding since 2010 and halved the contribution to our funds from central government. This is what you should be lobbying to change.  

 

Generating additional income

increase business rates for out of town businesses who pay disproportionately less than high street businesses;

introduce charging for polluting vehicles (similar to ULEZ) and use funds for public transport

take bus services into public ownership

introduce a workplace parking levy to transfer subsidy from cars to public transport as has been done in Nottingham

Using the County Council’s reserves

we have not been given sight of the “ringfenced funding” making up 82% of the £645.6m reserves. We should be consulted on the expenditure in this category. In particular we oppose further expenditure on roads; consultancy projects aimed at further “redesign” and “efficient services”. We should be given the opportunity to make choices and express our views about reserves.

 

Reducing and changing services

strongly disagree with reducing services further – this will have an impact on quality of life for many who are already disadvantaged or vulnerable; and will prevent the council from being able to discharge its duties.

 

Increasing Council Tax

we agree with increases to council tax for the top bands and would like to see greater contributions from those in the top bands. It would not be acceptable for those in bands D and below to suffer increases in their council tax liabilities.

Increases in business rates should also be imposed on out of town and online businesses which are currently paying far less than their high street counterparts.

 

Changing local government arrangements in Hampshire

this should be the subject of a separate consultation and is not appropriate for discussion in this document.

To reiterate, we do not consider this budget to be an appropriate response to the Climate Emergency or to austerity. A Citizens’ Assembly should be called to establish the priorities for Hampshire County Council’s expenditure.

 

for and on behalf of  

Winchester Green Party