A CASH strapped council is preparing to launch a major jobs boost, the Echo can exclusively reveal.

Hampshire County Council will look to employee around 100 new staff in the coming months.

The move is part of the authority's "ground-breaking" shared office scheme, in which it provides other public sector organisations with back office services.

Known as the Shared Services Partnership, the scheme already employees around 350 staff, who provide human resource and finance services for the likes of Hampshire Constabulary and Hampshire Fire and Rescue.

But the authority will look to add an extra100 staff over the coming months in preparation for three London borough councils joining the scheme.

The move comes just eight months after the county council announced it faced an anticipated budget shortfall of £140m by April 2019.

Leader of the council, Roy Perry, said: "Adopting efficient, modern business processes and technology across local public services, and sharing services, is one of the ways Hampshire has managed to keep council tax at one the lowest levels in the country.

"With ongoing financial pressures and the challenges of having to deliver a lot more with less money, all areas of the public sector are faced with finding smarter, more cost-effective ways of doing things.

"It's never been more important to look for opportunities to collaborate.

"To do just that, we launched a ground-breaking shared back office, public sector partnership.

"The objectives for sharing these services have been to reduce costs, create capacity for the future and develop a model that can expand and take on new partners – enabling organisations to reduce their back office overheads and increase resilience so resources can be targeted to the delivery of local services – making better use of limited public funds."

The scheme was originally launched in 2014 and, according to civic chiefs, has saved £2.7 million each year.

Councillor Perry said the scheme had helped the council avoid compulsory redundancies and keep a "good employment level".

He added that the scheme was now the biggest of its kind in the UK and, with the addition of the three London borough councils, would support over 90,000 staff.

The council will launch its recruitment campaign between now and Autumn.

New posts, which will range from entry level to supervisory, will be based alongside the council's existing sharing scheme team in Winchester.

Liberal Democrat politician, Mark Cooper, said he was "very much in favour" of bringing new jobs to the county.

However, the county councillor, who represents the Romsey Town ward, said he feared the scheme could reduce the standard of services provided for Hampshire.

He said: "The thing that would be my concern is that the authority looks after its own services.

"It's already hard enough for councillors to get things done in the county."

In 2015, a report by the Local Government Association showed councils have saved almost £500m by sharing services with each other since 2012.

Speaking at the time, the LGA's then improvement and innovation board chair Peter Fleming said: "Even at almost half a billion pounds, the savings from shared services simply do not match the scale of the 40 per cent funding reduction councils saw during the lifetime of the last parliament."