'WE are confident we have found solutions.'

Those are the words of Hampshire County Council leader Roy Perry who says plans will be laid out to protect services due to be hit by spending cuts.

Cllr Perry is set to meet parliamentary under secretary of state Marcus Jones early in the New Year in a bid to save services including school crossing patrols, recycling centres and community transport.

He will put forward proposals including a charge for older people’s bus passes in order to raise £50,000 for community transport and a £1 charge for visiting a recycling centre in order to raise £4m a year.

Hampshire County Council passed sweeping budget cuts in November as the authority battles to make savings of £140m by April 2019.

Cllr Perry said: “The extent of the county council’s financial pressures is well-reported. This has required some very difficult decisions to date, and we have been determined to explore every avenue to meet this challenge.

“In October, we asked officers to look again at a number of proposals to identify some additional and innovative solutions to making the savings.

“I’m pleased to say that we have made substantial progress on a range of alternative funding options for school crossing patrols, household waste recycling centres and community transport.

“As such, I’m confident that a significant proportion, indeed the majority of the proposed savings from these areas, should now be found elsewhere. For example, from our street lighting contract where we have overachieved on our savings, and improving recycling measures, working closely with our district council partners – which will free up extra revenue. Members of the cabinet will agree to the next steps needed to put these plans in place, in the new year.

“In the meantime, knowing that residents have told us that they would be willing to support raising existing charges or introducing new charges to help cover the costs of running some local services, we believe we have found some sensible and fair solutions for the longer term.

“To raise the funds required to maintain community transport, we would propose making a small charge for issuing older people’s bus passes. As such, we will be asking government to allow us to run a pilot scheme to charge £10 for issuing an older persons’ five year bus pass - this works out as £2 per year. This would raise approximately £500,000 a year – enough to pay for core community transport.

“I will be putting this proposal to Marcus Jones, along with permission to pilot a pay-as-you-go scheme, where people would pay £1 for each Household Waste Recycling Centre visit. This could raise up to £4 million a year.

“If we introduce these initiatives, I remain convinced that they offer the best approach to protecting these services, over the longer term. Even without these additional measures, I am still confident that the extra work we have done means we can now cover the services we were keen to maintain.”

Lib Dem Cllr Martin Tod said: “The Conservatives were wrong to propose these half-baked cuts and still need to get clearer about whether they’re protecting these services permanently or just delaying them. Their announcement is also silent on their party’s cuts to bus subsidies - as well as adults’ and children’s social care services.

“It’s hard to see how their social services cuts can be delivered without causing major problems in the NHS. Our local hospitals are already struggling with waiting times - and the local plan for the NHS relies on Hampshire improving its services, not just cutting budgets.”