LIBERAL Democrats have claimed that the proposed cuts to Hampshire County Council services would be “deeply damaging”.
The Conservative-led county council must try to make up a £140m shortfall as its central government grant continues to be cut.
Among the proposals put forward by the Conservatives are to stop funding for all subsidised bus services and community transport, pass the cost of school crossing patrols to the schools they serve or parish councils and to close half the household waste and recycling centres in Hampshire.
The council has also proposed to cut £500,000 from the winter road maintenance budget, including a reduction in priority one salting routes, and to dim street lights or turn them off in some areas between 1am and 4am.
The leader of Basingstoke and Deane Council’s Liberal Democrat group Gavin James 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 you’re someone who relies on 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.
“Once you start closing waste tips and axeing bus services, it is very hard to get them back again.”
The leader of Hampshire County Council, Roy Perry, said: “We have been reporting for some time now that opportunities for reducing costs are getting harder to find. 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.
“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.”
Mr Perry added: “I’ve been quite struck by the vox pops that have been done, that people might be prepared to consider paying for certain services and to contribute to them as and when they use them to ease the pressure on local government.
“The Government are open to ideas. They recognise the very difficult pressure local government is under.”
Mr Perry urged residents to go to the council “with solutions rather than with problems”.
“People could come to us with ideas rather than just saying ‘we need money’. We know everybody needs money,” he said. “This is a time for imagination and good thoughts on how we can continue to do good works economically and effectively.”
The suggested cuts will go before the full council in November.