CAMPAIGNERS are urging civic chiefs in Hampshire to avoid £80m worth of cuts.

The news comes as the authority has announced it has to save £80m by 2021 and launched a public consultation to ask residents to share their views on the ways the money could save money. 

Among the options there are increasing council tax, reducing libraries’ opening hours, switching street lights off for longer hours and using council reserves.

The Southampton People’s Assembly Against Austerity group said it is illogical to increase council tax or cut services if Hampshire County Council (HCC) can use its £645m worth of reserves.

Cllr Keith Mans, leader of HCC,  said the majority of the council’s reserves are already committed and the remaining uncommitted reserves only leave enough money to run services in Hampshire for around 27 days.

But campaigners said “enough is enough”.

Sean Cannon, secretary for the Southampton People’s Assembly Against Austerity (which has members from acropss Hampshire and Southampton), said: “People are desperate. We can’t have any more cuts. There’s no need for any more cuts, there’s no justification in our view. If the money is there you should use that money before starting making cuts or asking taxpayers. It’s illogical.”

Cllr Mans hit back and said reserves are being used to respond to “unprecedented financial pressures” due to a reduction in government funding and a rise in demand.

He added: “The simple fact is, you can only use reserves once – when they’re gone, that’s it. If there is not enough income to pay the bills, and reserves are spent, the funding problem still remains for future years.

"Furthermore, the majority of our reserves are already committed, for things like building new schools, roads and other facilities. They are also supporting the redesign of some of our core services to make them more cost effective and sustainable in the future; and act as an important contingency in the event of a major financial issue.

"The remainder, which represents only 16 percent of the overall reserves figure is earmarked to help the delivery of savings over the next few years.”