THE leader of the Basingstoke Liberal Democrats Group has labelled proposals to drastically slash funding from vital services and shut up to half of the county’s recycling centres as ‘deeply damaging’.

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.

Councillor Gavin James, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Basingstoke and Deane Council said: “These proposed cuts will leave a trail of devastation through services in Hampshire. So far, we have seen just the plans for transport, roads and waste and the scale of cuts is deeply damaging. Whether your someone who relies of the bus service, a parent wanting a child to get safely to school, someone wanting to use the council tip or a driver fed up with potholes and congestion, these cuts are bad news.”

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.”

Cllr James added: “The Conservatives didn’t mention the scale of the cuts either during May council elections or during their so called ‘budget consultation’. Years of Conservative mismanagement have taken a toll and the end results is cuts that will be deeply damaging to Hampshire residents. Once you start closing Waste Tips and axing bus services it is very hard to get them back again.

“It is mind boggling to hear Conservatives admit that the highways maintenance service ‘is now operating at a level below which it would be at risk of not meeting statutory obligations’ and yet they propose no action to improve things.”

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, 16 October.

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