COUNTY civic chiefs say their approach to spending means the authority won’t end up in the same position as other councils, such as Northamptonshire County Council – which inspectors said should be scrapped after it declared bankruptcy.

Hampshire authority leaders said that their focus to “plan ahead” and take “difficult decisions” means that the council won’t find itself in the same financial difficulties.

It comes after some councils found themselves overextended and in worrying financial positions. They included Birmingham City Council, East Sussex County Council, Hartlepool Borough Council, Lancashire County Council, Northamptonshire County Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Somerset County Council, Suffolk County Council, Surrey County Council, Torbay Council, and West Sussex County Council

“I saw research published of a list of councils that were repeatedly under severe financial strain,” said council leader Roy Perry.

“It is a long list. A worrying list. I am certainly pleased – delighted wouldn’t be the right word as it’s a worrying situation for the whole of local government, but I am pleased that Hampshire isn’t in that same predicament that we do find a number of our neighbours in. Responsible, well-run authorities are certainly facing severe difficulties, for all sorts of reasons.

“People may ask why Hampshire isn’t in that situation – what’s our secret?

“Well I don’t think there is anything secret about it, it’s that we have been, and do, plan ahead and look to the future, and that we have done carefully and deciduously(CORR).

“We have faced up to some pretty difficult decisions, but have taken them. And, above all, we have resisted the temptation, and of course the siren voices within the council chamber, to just draw on our reserves to keep expenditure running at previous levels.

“You can use reserves to give you time to make economies and efficiencies, but what you can’t do is use reserves to keep on spending as if there is no tomorrow. That leads to a worse predicament when the reserves run out, and if I read particularly the assessment of what happened in Somerset, it shows that there was a particular problem there that they were sustaining levels of expenditure by drawing on reserves.”

As reported, Somerset County Council could “run out of money in the next two to three years” unless urgent action is taken to reduce spending.

An official audit criticised the authority’s overspending and its failure to deliver sufficient savings over the last 12 months.

The council has said that action is being taken to ensure that services are protected and to make certain that the overspending does not continue.

Councillor Stephen Reid, Hampshire County Council cabinet member for education and skills, human resources and performance, added: “One of the reasons we’re not in this list [of struggling councils] is because we are planning ahead. Not just to 2020, but even further to 2022, and that makes it so we do not find ourselves in the same dire needs that some other councils are in.

“We need to make sure that there is a healthy future for Hampshire.”