HAMPSHIRE County Council has today agreed its budget for 2013/14 - one that freezes Council Tax at the same level for the fourth year, provides £600million capital to stimulate Hampshire’s economy and maintains and improves all of its services despite a 43 per cent cut in grant over four years.

The County Council’s share of the Council Tax for a Band D property will remain at £1037.88 for 2013/14.

There will be new job opportunities for 1,000 young people under a new apprenticeship scheme, 71 new social workers and support staff for safeguarding children will be recruited and there will be £10million growth in the adult care budget to protect services for an ageing population. Capital investment from reserves totalling £26.5million will be used to expand the Council’s work to bring superfast broadband to Hampshire and a District Energy Network that will represent a significant investment in green energy to help protect the environment and give a financial return. It will also fund improved access to the countryside, road safety in villages, refurbishment of community centres and infrastructure projects focussed on economic development. It follows a massive savings programme that has achieved £130million recurring savings over two and half years. Hampshire has always received one of the lowest Government grants of all county councils yet charges one of the lowest Council Taxes. The Council started its savings plan early and has taken the brunt of the cuts in two years rather than four, to put it in a stronger position to tackle the further grant cuts expected from 2015/16. Council Leader, Councillor Ken Thornber, said the “rigorous” efficiency programme had concentrated on overheads and avoided cuts to frontline services. This included 160 fewer managers and a reduction in its payroll of £46million. The capital programme for the next three years will provide around £600million for initiatives that will not only improve services but secure more jobs in Hampshire, Councillor Thornber said. “This includes money for 512 Extra Care units of accommodation, seven new schools and 36 extensions to existing schools and around £100million for the structural maintenance of roads and bridges. “The Leader added that the Council was also setting aside £200,000 for initiatives to support the Centenary of the First World War and to embed the Olympic legacy. It would also continue with its community ‘Have your Say programme’. “A £780,000 fund is to support “localism in action” through a new councillors’ highway fund to help them work with local communities to tackle high priority schemes in their areas. “This is a budget about maintaining and improving our excellent services, about giving hope to 1000 young people, and it is about securing jobs and expanding the economy of Hampshire. “We will achieve this in the teeth of a 43 per cent reduction in Government grant and we are well placed to face further Government demands after 2014/15,” Councillor Thornber also expressed his thanks to the County Council’s staff, to whom he said members owed their gratitude for their efforts and contributions and the way they had “risen to the unprecedented challenges presented by a huge reduction in grant to protect the wellbeing of the people they serve”.