CONCERNS have been raised over the future of services in Hampshire as millions of pounds may have to be saved over the next years on top of a £210m coronavirus bill.

Hampshire County Council could have to save  as much as £80m by 2023, it has been revealed.

The numbers could go up to £120m by 2024 should there be a need to extend the saving programme.

The news comes as by 2023 the council could also face a £210m bill due to the total of costs, losses and financial pressures related to the pandemic.

Of this, £103m is currently unfunded,  the council said.

A report published by the authority has revealed that the  financial implications of the coronavirus crisis on the county council’s own budgets and financial planning “will be profound”.

But civic chiefs said the £80m worth of savings that the council could be forced to make by 2023 is not related to the pandemic.

The authority said at this stage the figure is an estimate and could change.

But an official report showed that should the council have to save £80m by 2023 it would save £40.6m from Adults’ Health and Care; £20.5m from Children’s Services (non schools); £10.5m from the Economy, Transport and Environment department;  £3m from Culture, Communities and Business Services and £4.9m from Corporate Services. 

When asked how many jobs would be at risk the authority said it has no idea at this stage and “it is far too early to speculate”. 

The council said at this stage the prospect of further savings is “just a possibility” but said “it is unlikely” it will have no savings to make.

The news comes as the council said the cost of inflation and demand pressures outstrips additional council tax income by about £40m every year.

As reported, earlier this year the authority backed a plan to save £80m by 2021.

This could result in the closure of eight libraries and the loss of about 200 jobs.

Civic chiefs have pledged to continue to lobby the government to fund the cost of the coronavirus crisis.

The government said it has given councils “unprecedented support”.

But opposition leaders have raised concerns over the council’s future financial position.

Cllr Keith House, opposition leader at the county council, said: “The Conservative Party has to take full responsibility for the mess that the County Councll is in.  We already have the prospect of library closures. This points to the closure of local tips, museums, more libraries, an end to bus services and an even bigger backlog of road and pavement repairs.”

Now civic chiefs have urged the government to “honour its previous commitment to fund the financial consequences of Covid-19”.

Cllr Alan Dowden said: “Now they have spent that money and they are reneging on these promises. I think it’s disgraceful. I am worried not only for services for the county, I am worried for the nation. ”

Cllr Keith Mans, county council leader,  said: “Based on the reductions in our funding as well as the ongoing demand pressures it’s inevitable that we will continue to face budget pressures in future years. Anticipating what future budget pressures might look like is a key part of careful and prudent financial planning. At this stage, in the absence of any detailed information, the best forecast we have at the moment is an annual shortfall in funding of an estimated £40m. However, these are financial predictions only, based on our experiences to date. It is far too early to speculate on actual figures – particularly during the fast-moving Covid-19 pandemic.”

Cllr Mans said this week’s announcement of a consultation on the next Comprehensive Spending Review covering the next three years “is very welcome”.

He said this means the council will be much better placed to consider its medium term position once more details are released.

However, he added: “But, in Hampshire, our medium and long-term financial sustainability relies on central Government compensating councils fully for all the extra costs and losses from Covid-19.”

Minister for regional growth and local government Simon Clarke said the government has provided councils with a £4.3bn package.

He added: “Hampshire County Council has been allocated £61.61 million of this additional funding and it also has access to a new government scheme that will compensate councils for irrecoverable income losses from sales, fees and charges. In addition its core spending power rose by £55.01 million this financial year even before additional emergency funding was announced.”