HAMPSHIRE will need to save another £80 million by 2021, the council has announced, a year before an £140 million budget gap was due to be bridged.

Leader Roy Perry says the authority now faces an “increasingly difficult balancing act” to reduce its spending.

Civic chiefs add they will need to consider future costs to meet the shortfall, which has come from “continuing demographic pressures, inflation, and government grant reductions”.

The council has already tighten its belt dramatically, as it tried to save an anticipated budget shortfall of £140 million by April 2019.

Among the services hit by the cuts were social care, school crossing patrols, subsidised bus services, and community transport.

The authority is also currently consulting on saving £700,000 by cutting public transport and switching off street lights.

Cllr Perry said: “We are going to have to prepare to take some tough decisions about how to plug this projected £80million gap.

“We now face an increasingly difficult balancing act in trying to meet residents’ needs given the backdrop of diminishing budgets and rising demands for services. Even so, as well as meeting all our statutory duties, we will continue to do everything possible to address the issues we know people care most about – from supporting the most vulnerable adults and children, to fixing Hampshire’s extensive road network.”

Councillors will now meet on Monday, June 18, to find a way of making the multi-million-pound savings.

Conservative Cllr Perry added: “Over the last decade we’ve had to make a lot of changes to the way we work – and we will continue to exploit every new opportunity we can in order to give our residents the best possible value for their money.

“It’s important we maintain this innovative and collaborative approach so we can adapt to changing needs in the most cost effective way.

“Our sheer scale and in-house expertise secures significant economies of scale and helps to stretch every penny.

“Above all the county council must live within its means to avoid the type of financial crises now befalling other councils as these threaten to jeopardise the critical and everyday type of local government services we all depend upon.

“I am proud that the county council has sustained the highest levels of performance during these difficult years.

“We have managed that precisely because we have looked ahead and planned carefully to face the challenge.

“Through our strong financial management, and the prudent use of reserves over the years, the county council is still better placed than many other authorities to withstand future pressures and sustain local services.”

However, Romsey Liberal Democrat councillor Mark Cooper – who has fought the closure of services, has blamed the government for cutting its grants to local authorities.

He said: “Hampshire and its residents are the victims of the current Government’s obsession with cutting public spending.

“Effectively, by cutting grants to local authorities the government is hoping that Hampshire and other local authorities will get the blame for the loss of so many services that we currently value.

“It’s a cynical ploy. But that’s what happens when there’s a Conservative government in London.

“And it’s going to get a lot worse as Brexit brings about a major recession followed by a slump in tax revenues.

“You can guarantee that when services cease its the poor and the ‘pressured middle’ who suffer, not the rich who run this government.”