COMMUNITY leaders and campaigners have condemned proposals to drastically slash funding from vital services and shut up to half of the county’s recycling centres.

Following months of public consultation, Hampshire County Council officers have suggested almost £20m could be saved by the tabled cuts which could see school crossing patrols (£1.2m), subsidised bus services and community transport (combined £4m) lose their entire funding pot.

The proposed cuts are part of a plan by the county council to address an anticipated budget shortfall of £140m by April 2019.

And they also suggest that £1.2m could be saved by closing household waste recycling centres – £100,000 per site – and amending the hours of the rest.

The council has not confirmed which sites are threatened.

Romsey town Liberal Democrat councillor, Mark Cooper, pictured, has accused council heads of destroying essential services.

“Waiting until the county elections are over and then launching the total dismemberment of numerous essential services is cynical in the extreme,” added Cllr Cooper.

“Each of the planned transport cuts has the impact of forcing people to depend on cars more.

“Subsidised bus routes form 13 per cent of the county’s bus network and ceasing to fund community transport affects the most vulnerable in our society.”

Councillor Roger Price, a LibDem councillor who represents Portchester, added: “The cuts over recent years have been disastrous and cut service to the bone.

“These austerity measures are crippling.”

However, Conservative council leader Roy Perry has defended the council’s decision to make these “tough decisions”.

“We have been reporting for some time now, that opportunities for reducing costs are getting harder to find,” he added.

“With less money available and growing demand for council services, tough decisions are having to be made about what the county council can and cannot do in the future.

“Residents have told us that they continue to support our financial strategy which has involved targeting resources to those who need them most; planning ahead and securing savings early.

“To date, this approach has helped the county council to invest in new, more efficient ways of working and has helped to minimise the impact on frontline services as far as possible.

“However, we now have to consider more radical ways of making ends meet.

“Inevitably, this will involve changes to the way services are delivered, and further reductions in our workforce.

“It is too early to predict what the precise impact will be, as plans are still evolving and further public consultation will be needed.

“Despite this financial challenge, the county council remains one of the strongest local authorities in the country - delivering some of the best public services to Hampshire’s 1.3 million residents, and providing good value for money.”

As reported last year, residents took to the streets across the county to protest the proposed closures of household waste recycling centres as part of a previous round of council savings.

One of the major protests took place in Alresford, near Winchester, where hundreds of angered residents held banners aloft.

And now, following the news of the latest closure threat, Jan Field, secretary of the Alresford Society, said: “Alresford’s waste centre is heavily used.

“We could have another 320 families coming to the area under the local plan, so it seems like a bad idea.

“What are they going to do with the rubbish?”

Ms Field also worried that any cuts to the waste centres could see the Hampshire countryside ruined by fly-tipping – a growing problem in the county.

She added: “It certainly is a concern and somebody has to clear up the rubbish eventually.”

Regarding crossing patrols, Winchester city councillor Jamie Scott, who represents the St Luke ward, added: “I’m pleased that Stanmore Primary School has a new crossing patrol guard.

“Safety around schools is paramount and if safety is called into question I would challenge the council to rethink.

“The council needs to take responsibility.”

Michael Cleary, clerk of Owslebury and Morestead Parish Council, condemned the proposed cuts to bus subsidies.

He said: “Owslebury would be very badly affected if subsidies were withdrawn.

“It has no rail links and is now reliant on a greatly reduced bus service. the older population and youngsters that can’t drive are dependent on the buses.

“People are already having to walk a great distance to the nearest shop and it’s not fair on them.”

“It will cut off the village and drive people out.”

Proposals to deliver this latest round of anticipated savings will be discussed in a committee meeting next week and then considered by the county council’s cabinet on Monday, October 16.

A final decision will then be made on November 2, followed by a number of further consultations with residents and stakeholders, where necessary.