County moves budget savings a step closer

Oxford County Hall
Oxford County Hall

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet rubber stamped budget proposals on Tuesday which will result in savings of £64 million by 2017/18.

The latest phase of savings comes in response to a 
£96 million reduction in the council’s government grant for the years 2010-18.

Key areas hit include a 
£3.2 million cut in free and subsidised transport services and a £1.3 million cut in general Highways maintenance.

A £12 million cut is proposed to the Adult Social Care Budget, largely by “cutting non-statutory services” and increasing efficiency.

Around £6.4 million will be slashed from the £98 million budget for children, education and families including £3 million savings from the county’s children’s centres and £3.1 million from the children’s services department. A sum of 
£1.3 million will also be saved from support for people with special educational needs by rationalising costs. However, in a reversal of earlier proposals the council insists no children’s centres or early intervention hubs will close.

Libraries will lose £250,000, and £245,000 per year will be slashed from Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, including proposals to change 24-hour fire cover in Banbury to a day-crewed model by 2016-17.

Up to £2.5 million will be cut from the public health budget between 2016 and 2018 through commissioning more efficient services, and £13 million will come from reductions in staff pay.

John Christie, Labour councillor for Ruscote, said the council had been left in a difficult position due to “failures” in government budget planning. He said: “The cut this year is savage and disproportionate to cuts elsewhere in Government. The council is being forced to make unjustifiable cuts to crucial services, which no councillor of any party wants to see.”

However, he praised the council’s decision to revise proposals to close some children’s centres.

Under current legislation the council cannot raise its council tax without a referendum. The budget will be considered by full council on February 18.

Meanwhile Banbury Town Council has announced its council tax demand for 2014/2015 will be frozen for the fourth year running. The town council precept for a band D property will remain at £122.12 a year.

Council leader Kieron Mallon said: “This is another positive budget which will maintain and improve services without increasing the town’s portion of the overall council tax bill.”

Increased income from town hall lettings is expected after last year’s refurbishment of the building, and a review of staffing levels will save the council £30,000 in 2014/2015.

Grants from the council to local charities will rise from £30,000-£40,000 in 2014 and £96,000 will be spent on play area refurbishment – with £56,000 paying for a new surface in Hillview Park play area and another £15,000 funding the refurbishment of Ruscote Park’s ball games court.

A sum of £131,000 has been set aside for cemetery provision, which will mainly be used to buy and lay out new land.