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

Leader Roy Perry said the authority faced an “increasingly difficult balancing act” to reduce its spending.

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

The council had already 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 subsidies 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 £80 million 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.”

Councillors will meet on Monday to find a way of making the 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.”

However, Romsey Liberal Democrat councillor Mark Cooper – who has fought the closure of services – blamed the government for cutting 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.”